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DL will see 32 new teachers this year

"It's a different year." That's how Superintendent Doug Froke describes the Detroit Lakes Public School District's influx in teacher hires this year.

Almost doubling from last year, the district has hired 32 new teachers for the 2012-23 school year. Needless to say, this summer has been busy for school principals, the human resources department and Froke -- it's two weeks before school begins and there are still a couple positions not yet filled.

"It's the changing face of the workforce," he said.

That change hasn't hit surrounding districts yet though. For instance, Frazee-Vergas School District Superintendent Chuck Cheney said their numbers are pretty average.

"Our new teaching staff for this fall totals six and is the result of three retirements and three resignations. This seems to be reasonable and likely close to normal."

No one reason for influx

No one reason can be pinpointed for the large increase in new hires at Detroit Lakes this year. Instead, it's a mix of retirements, performance issues and teachers moving away for job opportunities -- whether it be in teaching or other fields. There were also several transfers within the district to other positions.

And, times have changed over the years.

Whereas people used to take a job and keep it until retirement, people now average three to five career changes in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Froke said they've heard that statistic for awhile, and the district is now experiencing it firsthand.

When teachers work in a district for a year or two, and get valuable experience, they become very marketable when switching to a new district. And because they aren't tenured yet, they are even more of a desirable hire because it saves districts money.

In Minnesota, a person has to teach three consecutive years in a district to be eligible for tenure status. After that, it's still up to the local school board if the teacher will be tenured or not, meaning they will have a continuing teaching contract.

Districts have three years to determine if that teacher is suited for the district for the next 20 to 30 years -- something that is understandably hard to predict.

"We're doing our best to see if giving them tenure (is right). It's a big step for the teacher and it's a big step for the district," Froke said.

A new way of hiring

In the past, teacher openings were always posted to two main websites known for listing teaching positions throughout the state.

"Those were the most popular places to go because that's where the new hires are," Froke said.

For the last couple years though, Froke said they have started traveling to teacher job fairs, which gives the district representatives the opportunity to visit face-to-face with potential employees (being handed their credentials and seeing them face to face rather than just looking at a resume), and there is a broader pool of candidates.

When they have openings, Froke said they get anywhere from 200 to 400 applicants.

"We can't go through 400 applications. Even at 200, they all look the same. That's why we go to job fairs," he said.

But, on the flip side, it's very hard to fill positions like the two open in Early Childhood Special Education because there aren't nearly as many applicants.

The bottom line for the district, Froke said, "our job is to put the best person in front of the classroom that we can. It's a very large task."

But, he added, with the trend of switching jobs as they are, the district will likely see high hiring numbers like this in the future as well.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.