The Trajectory of PCS Staffing Challenges


Once schools were shut down due to COVID lockdown protocols in the Spring of 2020, hundreds of high school systems and staffing processes changed unexpectedly. 

Although the Casa campus has been steadily improving since the pandemic’s beginning, the past two years of hiring for Casa Grande and Petaluma schools as a whole have been experiencing many obstacles.

The Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources at Petaluma City Schools, Jason Sutter, elaborated, “when I took over, we were in the middle of a challenging hiring season. I don’t think the education field is unique in having this issue.” He entered his position in July of 2021.

A down-turning economic trend known as the “Great Resignation” or the “Big Quit,” which took place after COVID-19, caused many people across the country to work from home and look for new jobs, especially healthcare workers and teachers.

Sutter added, “education was affected strongly, as were many other professions.”

Dr. Dan Ostermann, principal of Casa Grande, also spoke about his thoughts on the differences in hiring from the last two years on campus.

“We have been experiencing staffing challenges system-wide. The cost of living in California and Sonoma County is significant; the upheaval of the pandemic and other challenges like fire, flood, and drought have had factors in [the hiring of staff] too. Particularly, the pipeline between classified and certified positions in teaching has been less and less over the last few years.”

Sutter and Dr. Ostermann noted how the wages of teaching staff and other staff members have also affected the hiring outturn.

“We had a long negotiation process with our classified staff, which led to two years without a raise,” said Jason Sutter, when speaking about the salaries of teachers at PCS. “That hurt our hiring process.”

Dr. Ostermann abbreviated, “The salary range has had a hard time catching up to being competitive, and all of those factors lead to fewer people wanting to get into education, sadly.” 

Additionally, both members of the district spoke about the specific trials with finding staff representing and educating everyone on campus.

Sutter said, “we have vacancies in Special Education for teachers and instructional assistants. These programs have traditionally been a little more difficult to find staff.”

Dr. Ostermann also highlighted, “One of the more challenging, and urgent staffing needs is to hire a staff [member] who much more reflects the diverse student body we have.  Unfortunately, the same pipeline challenges that ail the entire system, are often even more acute when leaning into [this].”

However, while there have been significant issues in the past that have had long-lasting effects on our staffing, it is apparent that the PCS District and our Casa Grande campus have been taking steps into improving these circumstances.

We have been slowly and steadily filling our position,” Sutter indicated. “To do this, we had to look at new places to recruit, offer incentives for hard-to-fill positions, and be diligent…Summing it up, I think we are headed in the right direction.” 

Dr. Ostermann also had exciting information to share about new, upcoming programs on campus that will be able to build the education pipeline back up for future Gauchos and other students.

“On my end, we have been working very hard. We are starting a new CT pathway here at Casa in Child Development, Careers, and Education which [will be starting] in the fall. Students in that class will be concurrently enrolled at Sonoma State University during the spring…[which] would work as an elective course,” Dr. Ostermann remarked.

The principal hopes that this initiative will provide more opportunities for students to become interested in the education career field. He stated, “I would love to see the State [or the county] incentivize more folks going into the teaching or support staff profession.”

While there have been previous child development pathways at Casa, most of the programs have not been active for over 10 years. The current Casa Grande administration aims to attract more individuals into these programs in order to make school jobs more appealing and competitive, hopefully raising salaries at the same time.