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KCS still looking to fill more than seven open special education positions

Knox County Schools Executive Director of Human Resources wants to offer incentives to help fill more than 20 special education positions within the district.

A Knox County School official is proposing recruitment incentives for newly hired teachers in the hopes of filling a few remaining vacant special education teaching positions, according to a memorandum.

In the July 20 memorandum from KCS Executive Director of Human Resources, Dr. Kelly Drummond requests a $2,400 incentive for up to 10 teachers — a total of $24,000 already designated within the budget for tuition reimbursement.

There were originally 22 unfilled special education teaching positions, but that number is now close to seven. KCS Executive Director of Student Support Services Melissa Massie told 10News that normally at this time of year the district has eight to 10 vacancies in special education positions.

The district received approval from the school board to provide tuition reimbursement for teachers willing to go back to school to get their special education license. Those teachers would work while attending school.

The memorandum asks that if a currently licensed teacher enrolls in a special education program, the college or university must request a provisional license — allowing the teacher to teach special education at KCS while in the program.

"Parents can be assured that on the very first day we'll have good, solid instruction going on, we have a plan to support the people that are working in that classroom until we get those teachers hired," Massie said.

KCS leaders point to a nationwide demand for teachers and special education teachers. KCS leaders say there are about 8,000 students who use about 400 special education teachers. In May, 10News reported that there are more than 800 KCS students with autism, up from more than 500 in 2009.

Debi Stafford's 19-year-old daughter, Allie, has autism. When you get her talking about her favorite teacher, Paula, Allie lights up.

Now Allie goes to Powell High School, where she's enrolled in Spanish, art, math and ELA. Allie is involved in Special Olympics and also works at Aubrey's one day per week.

Stafford credits Allie's development in part to some of her special education teachers.

"Because there's something in their heart that is just called to do this," Stafford said.

When Allie was 11 years old, she recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time at camp.

"All those beautiful words of our Pledge, and she's verbalizing them whereas so many years prior she didn't have the verbal ability to say it," Stafford said.

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