Schools say music teachers hard to find - Above, Algona Bishop Garrigan band students
Schools turn to prayer to fill teaching, music positions
By KATIE BORKOWSKI
In recent years, it has become more and more difficult to find quality educators for Catholic and public schools. Schools are now struggling to find any candidates for particular subjects.
One school has been without a permanent music educator due to the shortage. What is this Catholic school doing to enhance their search? Why, prayer of course.
St. Edmond Catholic School in Fort Dodge initiated a novena to St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, praying for the intercession of this well-known saint to fill the vocal music teacher position for the high school, which has been open since last year.
Novena to St. Cecilia
The nine-day novena was prayed from May 8 to May 16 to ask for St. Cecilia’s intercession to pray for St. Edmond School to find the remaining teachers needed for the 2023-24 school year, including the music teacher. The school also offered daily text reminders to those wishing to participate.
Kelley McGonegle, a St. Edmond parent and alumna, initiated the novena. She currently has three students attending St. Edmond in third, sixth and 11th grades along with one child who graduated in 2021. She is a member of the enrollment management and Catholic identity committees, Athletic and Music Boosters and a co-chair of the newly founded St. Edmond Parent Club (SEPC).
As a Catholic school, she said, it only seems fitting “to utilize prayer for any needs or concerns we might be facing.”
“The ability to celebrate and lean on our faith is something that other schools are not allowed to do,” said McGonegle. “We should fully embrace this beautiful and powerful tool that we have at our disposal.”
She explained this is the third novena the school has done this school year, which was an idea discussed during a Catholic Identity meeting last fall.
“The first novena was started by some other members of the committee and completed in December,” said McGonegle. “In February, I joined with a couple other people to start a novena to St. John Neumann. We chose him because he was the first ecclesiastic to organize a diocesan school system in the United States. We had concerns about events happening in our school at the time, as well as a number of teaching positions that needed to be filled, so he seemed like a good choice.”
She shared the fruits of the previous novenas has been “very evident. There were several interviews held, verbal offers accepted and/or contracts signed during the nine-day period.”
“My hope for this novena is that we are able to fill the vocal music position, and perhaps some of the other open positions as well,” said McGonegle. “I also hope that it enriches the Catholic identity of our school by highlighting the power of prayer. These novenas have been a very effective way to encourage and facilitate the power of group prayer in our St. Edmond community.”
Diocesan School searches
Other schools in the diocese have been searching to fill teaching positions as well.
Deidre Drees, elementary principal at Danbury Catholic School, has been looking to fill two classroom teacher positions.
Danbury Catholic advertised the positions in the parish bulletins, four local newspapers, Teach Iowa, Cy Hire, Handshake and on the Danbury Catholic website and Facebook pages. Danbury Catholic representatives also attended the Iowa State Teacher Recruitment Fair in March.
“I lifted up my prayer request to the Lord during my daily prayer times and trusted that he would do what he says will throughout Scripture,” said Drees. “I just needed to trust that he would work all things for our good. I also asked Father Bill (McCarthy), board members and staff to join me in prayerfully requesting that the people God had already called would respond positively to his call.”
Kristie Hough, pk-2 principal at Seton Grade School in Algona, is also looking for a music teacher for the 2023-24 school year.
Along with social media, the school is using Indeed and Teach Iowa as well as word of mouth and reaching out to people they know who have experience.
“Social media is a good way to get the word out because this is where many spend a lot of their time,” said Hough. “Many don't look at postings in newspapers anymore. By posting on social media, we can customize and post as often as we need to do so. It is possible to also pay to post, so it will appear in news feeds where visibility is guaranteed.”
Although they have received responses from their social media accounts for other positions, the school has not received any responses from social media for the music position.
“We used to have many applicants for positions,” said Hough. “Now we do not have many applicants for any of our positions. We have to do a lot of seeking people out, relying on word of mouth as well, reaching out to people in order to find qualified teachers. A music teacher is an in-demand position. Not many go into this, so it makes it harder to find a music teacher.”