Highland Teacher Vacancies are High and Students will Now Go Without SRO

You have likely heard about the ongoing teacher shortage at schools across America, including here in Highland County. 

Highland County Public Schools is currently listing multiple vacancies, and parents have voiced concern over the use of long-term subs to fill positions that are required, but remain open. 

A posting on Monday, April 15 showed the school hiring for an elementary secretary, a special education aide, a special education teacher, a second grade teacher, a fourth grade teacher, a music teacher, an agricultural teacher, and a middle school English teacher.

There are currently long-term substitutes finishing out the year in the positions of elementary secretary, elementary special education teacher, fourth grade teacher, and agricultural teacher after sudden resignations during the second semester.

Notably missing from the growing list is a posting for an elementary school principal or administrator. The position was first posted in the school app on Friday March 15, then removed suddenly on Monday, March 18 after school board member Sherry Sullenberger said during the school board meeting that she felt the listing was preemptive and more discussion needed to be had on whether it could be blended with another position.

Sullenberger brought up the vacancy again in the April 11 meeting, and Superintendent Dr. Drew Maerz reminded the board that they had not approved a listing for that position yet and that it might be a blended situation.

“We need to know what the plan is for the elementary administrator before we hire someone to commit to that position. Should the position change or anything, I want to be honest with whoever we are hiring about what it’s going to look like,” said Maerz. “So once you make a decision there, we’ll be able to move forward.”

A comment from board member Kenny Hodges seemed to reiterate the need to be flexible within positions as he addressed current fifth grade teacher Kimberlie Richardson who was in the audience saying, “Kim, you may be teaching class too, just so you know.”

It was unclear if this comment meant the board was thinking about blending elementary classes together or if he was continuing to discuss the role of the elementary administrator. 

I reached out for a comment on this exchange, since it is a question many parents in the community have, and was told that the recording would be reviewed, however a response was not received in time for the story.

On Thursday, April 18 the Highland County Sheriff’s office added to the vacancy list at the school, announcing that they were pulling School Resource Officer Beth McGuire from her duties at the school back to the sheriff’s office due to shortages there. Maerz released a statement on Friday afternoon:

“Highland County Public Schools value the presence of a sheriff’s deputy on our campus and wish it was not necessary to reassign a deputy from being school based to other duties. While understanding the safety of our entire community is the Sheriff’s responsibility and respecting this difficult decision, we hope to work together with the Sheriff to find the resources and staff to support the permanent placement of a School Resource Officer (SRO) in our division.

“As we have done in the past, Highland County Public Schools will work closely with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of our students, staff, families, and facilities. Both the School Board and the administration believe this to be one of our most important responsibilities.”

The next Highland County School Board meeting will be May 9.

Story By


Brit Chambers

Brit Chambers is a resident of Highland County, Virginia and a news reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio. She loves living in a small town and relishes the outdoor adventures and community feeling that Highland has to offer. Brit has a background in journalism, marketing, and public relations and spends her free time reading good books, baking sourdough bread, and hiking with her family.

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