The Jefferson Union High School District struggles to hire qualified teachers. That problem isn’t unique. In fact, it’s ubiquitous across California and the country.

The district loses about a quarter of its staff each year, according to Jonathan Portney, the executive director of the Daly City Youth Health Center. He encouraged all to show support at a Daly City city council meeting last week for JUHSD’s plan to develop the property at Serramonte Del Rey for staff housing.

That could address a problem noted by JUHSD Superintendent Toni Presta, who said the high cost of living in the Bay Area makes hiring and retention difficult. She explained what JUHSD is doing to retain more teachers and the challenges she faces.

“With the high cost of Bay Area living, fully staffing a district is a constant concern of the district, and the pandemic has exacerbated this issue,” she wrote in an email to the Tribune. “Though a wonderful district in which to work, the JUHSD is the lowest-funded high school district in San Mateo County and often loses teachers to higher-paying neighboring districts.”

The JUHSD school board created a three-pronged approach to address recruitment and retention of staff by increasing funding to enable JUHSD to offer salary increases and lowering the cost of living for employees, she said. To that end, it has passed additional parcel taxes, begun building affordable staff housing and explored generating revenue from under-utilized, district-owned property, Presta said.

“We have passed additional parcel taxes, which add $2 million to our annual budget,” she wrote. “We’re proud to see the construction of the employee housing complex taking shape on our current district office site and anticipate the below-market-rate housing project will add to our ability to retain staff.”

In addition, JUHSD is training new teachers from within the school community.

“We’ve teamed up with San Mateo County Office of Education and the Alder Graduate School of Education to support members of our community who wish to become teachers,” wrote Presta. “This internship program allows current staff and community members to advance through a program that allows them to teach within the district community and work with a district mentor while obtaining their teaching credential. Upon completion, these community members are guaranteed a job with the school district and they commit to stay with the district for years to come.”

Jane Northrop has covered Pacifica for the Pacifica Tribune since 1996. She has won first place John Swett Awards from the California Teachers Association for her coverage of education.

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