MEDINA COUNTY, Ohio — President Biden's administration is setting aside $9 billion in the American Families Plan to address the country's teacher shortage—a shortage that is felt in rural Ohio schools.
"Well, I know we are the smallest school in the Medina County schools," said Chris Clark.
Clark is the superintendent of Black River Local Schools in rural Medina County.
"Here I wear more hats than what I would if a counterpart was in an in a suburban district," he said. "Besides being the superintendent, currently, my head of maintenance is off. So I am now the head of maintenance for the Black River Local Schools."
All three school buildings sit on one campus in the middle of Ohio farm country.
"We are the community. So the school district is the community," Clark said about the importance of the district that has students from five towns.
Because educators in rural districts wear many hats, Clark said he looks for flexibility in new hires. He also knows firsthand there is a teacher shortage. He said top candidates go quickly. In Ohio, teaching applicants have a July 10 deadline before accepting a job in the district. So far, four candidates Clark offered jobs to decided to go another way.
"So we're having to reinvent the wheel as well. So, yeah, it makes you very nervous," he said about being about a month from the deadline and still searching for candidates that would fit well in his district.
"Most of our teachers here, when they come out here, are not in it for the money," he said. "There are some other things that are that are appealing."
Ninety miles away in Middlefield is another rural district seeing the impact of a teacher shortage.
"We do have some challenges that may be more suburban districts do not have to face," said district superintendent Bill Kermavner. He said keeping teachers is as important as finding them.
The seasoned educator is worried about new teachers.
"Everything is under a microscope," he said. "So there's a lot of pressure and we see a lot of younger teachers struggling with that right now. That may not end up in the profession five years from now."
Right now, he has enough teachers to cover his classes but he said finding substitutes recently has gotten harder. Just like in Black River, educators in Cardinal Local Schools are more than just teachers.
"So we're looking for future employees to take on more," he said.
Despite that, both superintendents said the environment in rural districts is what keeps teachers around.
"There are a lot of folks out there thinking, oh, you're going to some country school," Clark said. "And I want to make sure that everybody understands the country schools here can compete."