Dozens of people mill about in a large school gymnasium where paperwork sits on folding tables adorned with green tablecloths and blue and yellow balloons.
Over 100 people attended a career fair at International Community School in Oakland on July 20, 2023. Credit: Xueer Lu

About 130 people showed up at International Community School Thursday for an Oakland Unified School District career fair, where recruiters were trying to fill 97 teaching vacancies, particularly for bilingual and special education teachers and paraeducators.

“We have strong dual language programs, especially in Spanish and English. We want our students to be multilingual and we want to honor their multilingual backgrounds,” said Sarah Glasband, director of OUSD’s recruitment and retention team. “So we really want to cultivate multilingual educators as well.”

OUSD is offering visa support for teachers with credentials from other countries, as well as international students who speak Spanish, in order to attract bilingual teaching talent from a range of backgrounds. 

A lot of Spanish-speaking job seekers showed up at the career fair. Alexandra Quintana was one of them. Originally from Peru, Quintana lives in San Leandro and is looking to teach first grade.

“It’s my first time coming here so I was a little bit nervous,” said Quintana, who has no teaching experience. “I’ve been having conversations with two different elementary school representatives and they’ve provided me with a bit more information.” 

The district is offering more competitive wages after teachers went on a strike for 11 days in March over wages, prep time, class sizes, and other issues. The strike ended with a 10% pay raise for all district staff and additional adjustments to the salary schedule for teachers. Under the new contract, the starting salary for first-year teachers rose from $52,905 to $62,696.

“Obviously, there’s challenges and so many vacancies,” said Cristina Segura, principal of Esperanza Elementary School. “But teachers are all given a really significant raise, and I’m hoping that will entice people to stay or come into Oakland because we are more competitive now compared to other districts.”

Esperanza Elementary is among the eight dual language schools in OUSD. The school is looking to hire six bilingual teachers. 

Competition for job candidates is thick because of a nationwide shortage of teachers that was made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. In California, few districts are untouched by the shortage, which surpassed 10,000 vacancies during the 2021-22 school year.

OUSD also is looking for special education expertise. Every year there is a shortage, said Michael Gebreslassie, assistant principal at Fremont High School, which is hiring two paraeducators. 

“It’s a niche skill set where an educator not only has to be great with kids, families, and young people, they have to serve a range of support that students might need, as well as ensure that they’re supporting the paperwork aspect of the position, which is a lot of documentation assessment,” Glasband said. 

Bilingual teacher positions and special education positions account for 35% to 50% of teaching vacancies at OUSD, she added.

Career fairs are slowly returning in person, after being moved online during the pandemic. Earlier this month, the district held a virtual career fair with more than 100 potential recruits. 

OUSD normally organizes three to five career events per year in person and two to three online to accommodate candidates from outside the area, Glasband said.

In addition to teachers, the district also is hiring paraeducators, custodians, substitute teachers, and other positions. 

Applicants can go to OUSD’s website for more information and to apply through the district’s portal. 

The first day of school is Aug. 7. 

This story was co-published with Oakland North.