With nearly 50 job openings, the Salem-Keizer School District is on the hunt for help.
And like other major employers in Salem, school district officials are resorting to job fairs to find applicants.
That’s in addition to using billboards, traditional advertising and even signs on freight trucks shuttling supplies around the district.
The district has been holding the job fairs once a month at its headquarters at 2450 Lancaster Drive N.E.
Hiring is especially challenging this time of year because most positions are temporary, lasting only for the rest of the school year, according to Brian Turner, the district director of recruitment and staffing.
At each fair, district employees set up stations for the various types of jobs available, from custodian to teacher. Anyone interested in a particular opening can apply right then.
Those who show interest in driving a bus or cleaning a school can get “on-the-spot interviews, right there,” Turner said.
Work can start in a matter of days after background checks and other personnel procedures, he said.
Custodians are paid $19.09 to $24.37. Drivers can earn $20.05 to $25.58 an hour with a potential $3,000 bonus.
“And we have terrific benefits,” Hunter said.
The most recent job fair attracted about 40 people because not many full-time jobs are open now. Attendance can be as high as 100 for the evening event, Turner said.
At the moment, the district needs help in the classroom, with most of the current openings for instructional assistants.
“We employ more instructional assistants than any other school district in the state,” Turner said.
The pay ranges from $20.05 to $25.58 an hour. But the jobs vary in schedule, from two to eight hours a day – and the job is temporary through the school year.
“It’s a high turnover job. It doesn’t pay as high as it probably could,” Turner said.
The application itself for those who will work with children can be daunting, with aspects “that you would never see at a McDonald’s” and running 13 pages, Turner said. Those at the job fair are there in part to help with that paperwork, including bilingual support.
He said instructional assistants are key to the district’s efforts to bolster literacy. That requires grouping students into small clusters, which takes more staffing to handle.
“The ideal candidate has a love for students and loves watching them get excited about learning,” Turner said.
The need for instructional assistants fluctuates as enrollments in a particular school shift up or down – usually up – and retirements and resignations leave vacancies.
The district has most of the bus drivers it needs, but Hunter and his team have adjusted their recruiting approach. Because of the split schedule for drivers for a normal school, retirees were the prime candidates.
“Now we are targeting stay-at-home folks,” Turner said. “Driving your kids to school? Drive them in a bus.”
As the school year winds down, the hiring needs focus on filling custodian and maintenance jobs for the summer.
The district’s next job fair is scheduled for Thursday, April 27, but openings are listed online and applications can be made anytime on the district’s jobs website.
Hunter notes that the Salem-Keizer School District still requires employees be vaccinated against Covid. That requirement has deterred applicants, Turner acknowledged.
Turner cited service to schools as a reason people should sign up for a district job.
“We need community members to work for the school district,” he said.
CORRECTION: Brian Turner is the district director of recruitment and staffing. A previous version misstated his last name. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.
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Les Zaitz is editor and CEO of Salem Reporter. He co-founded the news organization in 2018. He has been a journalist in Oregon for nearly 50 years in both daily and community newspapers and digital news services. He is nationally recognized for his commitment to local journalism. He also is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon.