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NORMAL — Superintendent Mark Daniel warned Wednesday that action must be taken to address a looming teacher shortage that, in many ways, is already here.

Speaking during comments at the McLean County Unit 5 school board meeting, Daniel said the Normal-based district is fortunate in that it has already taken steps in that direction, such as increasing the starting pay for teachers.

But he told the board: “We are truly in a teacher shortage. This is real.”

He cited statistics reported at a recent conference of the Large Unit District Association showing that the number of educator certification/licensure tests administered has dropped from 51,415 in 2012-13 to 13,535 in 2016-17, a 74 percent decrease.

Speaking after the meeting, Daniel said Unit 5 is in better shape than many districts, with only one or two current teacher openings out of about 980 teachers.

But days with full staffing like that “could become fewer and fewer if we don't do something pro-active,” he said.

It's something that must be tackled on a statewide basis and includes changing perceptions and images of the teaching profession so parents will encourage their children to pursue teaching careers, he said.

It also means doing more to “grow your own” by giving high school students exposure to teaching experiences, Daniel added. He cited as an example the way some high school seniors help small groups in music programs.

Another step would be to line up courses — as is being done with computer science through an agreement between Unit 5 and Heartland Community College — allowing students to work toward a teaching degree while still in high school, he said.

“We need to jump-start and make it more affordable for kids,” he said.

In other business at the meeting, the board approved a change in the way bids are sough for diesel and gasoline to provide greater flexibility and allow administrators to respond more quickly to dips in the market.

The board also was introduced to the new principal at Fairview Elementary School, Gina Tenuta.

A graduate of Elmhurst College, Tenuta has been in Unit 5 for eight years. Most recently, she was associate principal and athletic director at Evans Junior High School.

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Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

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Education Reporter

Education Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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