St. Louis Catholic schools are scrambling to fill vacancies before classes resume this fall, while offering below-average salaries during a national staffing crisis.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis website lists 250 vacancies at 100 Catholic schools in the area.
The schools with the most unfilled jobs are primarily in northern St. Louis County. All Saints Academy in Florissant, formed in 2018 by the merger of the parish schools of Saint-Ferdinand, Sainte-Rose Philippine Duchesne and Saint-Norbert, has 16 openings on the three campuses.
St. Louis Catholic Academy, the only archdiocesan school north of the city, has seven openings out of about 30 positions in total. St. Cecilia, which serves a predominantly Hispanic population in southern St. Louis, has eight unfilled jobs, including a Spanish teacher.
Administrators of the Archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education and Training along with principals are exploring “alternative staffing options” for the fall, said a superintendent of elementary education at St. Louis Review in an article published on May 26.
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Superintendent Maureen DePriest and other education officials were in a meeting Wednesday and were unavailable for further comment, according to a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.
The abundance of job openings is striking as the archdiocese continues to plan a massive reorganization of its shrinking population into 178 parishes and 100 schools. Consolidations of parishes and school closures should be announced next spring.
Falling enrollment has led to the closure of dozens of Catholic schools in recent decades, most recently Trinity Catholic High School in northern St. Louis County last year.
Nationally, teacher satisfaction is at an all-time low due to burnout from staff shortages and other pandemic-related challenges. A survey of American teachers released in February found that 55% planned to leave the profession sooner, according to the National Education Association.
Catholic schools must compete for teachers with public schools, which have aggressively raised salaries amid their own struggles to recruit and retain teachers.
The Missouri Legislature raised the starting salary for teachers statewide this year to $38,000. Additionally, St. Louis public school staff will receive record increases of 8% for 2022-23 along with a minimum teacher salary of $45,136. This summer, the Riverview Gardens School District doubled its summer school pay to $70 an hour for coordinators and $50 an hour for teachers.
By comparison, the salary for entry-level teachers in most Catholic schools is around $30,000. In April, the St. Louis Archdiocesan Teachers Association, representing teachers at five Catholic high schools, agreed to a new three-year contract with a minimum salary of $33,000.
If Catholic schools don’t raise tuition fees or make sacrifices like new technology, “the only thing they can control is teachers’ salaries,” said Mike Oslance, a former Catholic educator. in St. Louis and the Metro East, most recently. as manager of Holy Trinity in Fairview Heights.
“In my 10 years as an elementary school principal, any young teacher we hired would be gone the minute a public school job offer came up,” Oslance said. “There are just no easy answers to this. Trying to keep all these schools open, it’s now becoming financially unsustainable.”
St. Louis-area Catholic schools prepare for sweeping changes in parish reorganization