Humboldt County School district declares critical needs status

With many areas of Nevada critically short of necessary teachers to fill classrooms, Humboldt County is no exception. For many years, the Humboldt County School District has filled teaching positions with long-term substitutes in order to provide necessary general education classes to students, as fully-licensed and qualified teachers are unavailable to fill the positions. At their meeting on May 10, the Humboldt County School Board unanimously voted to declare critical needs status for Math and Special Education positions, with board member Christopher Entwistle absent. 

“This is being highly encouraged through the Nevada Department of Education and the Licensure Department as they realize that every department in Nevada and across the nation is struggling,” said Superintendent Dr. Dave Jensen. 

Lowry High School currently has one math position that needs to be filled, and requires certifications in advanced math — like calculus — and five Special Education positions that are still open, according to Jensen. It is incredibly important that students have access to competent teachers and the school district is currently working to get the positions filled. 

“I really believe that this is in our best interest as we do everything possible to try to secure qualified candidates to work with our students, in particular, when we are talking about our special education students. These are some of our most vulnerable and at-risk student populations and I believe we have a strong obligation to do what we can to get highly qualified individuals in front of them,” said Jensen. 

The Critical Needs Status, according to Jensen, will allow retired teachers to return to the district while still having the ability to take from their retirement from the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), without salary limitations. The retirees would provide the much needed presence of experience within the classroom that students need. 

Critical Needs Status may be designated for two years, with the hopes of recruiting long-term teachers in that time, according to Dr. Jensen. The district has attended three different hiring fairs in Wisconsin, Montana, and Washington, in order to exhaust all avenues of recruiting teachers, but no interested candidates were established, confirmed Assistant Superintendent, Willi Jensen. 

School board member Nicole Bengochea expressed that she feels that the district “needs to be advertising more on social media and pushing these jobs out there because that is where we’re going to find the younger people.”

With the school district relying heavily on retirees to fill these positions, the district is also considering the future, as more and more of the tried and true teachers within the district abdicate in favor of proper retirement. 

Jensen said, “We have been fortunate that a lot of former students return to us and that’s one of our avenues I think we need to give more consideration to.”

Dr. Jensen’s “grow your own” philosophy considers the limitations that Humboldt County has in regards to lack of affordable housing, as the district has had no luck recruiting teachers from other areas to move to Winnemucca.  

“It is far bigger than just getting them to our area if they do any type of research beforehand,” said board member Jenna Owen, in regards to the cost of living within Winnemucca.