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National teacher shortage affects Pennsylvania

The United States, including Pennsylvania, is dealing with a teacher shortage.

Since 1996, the number of undergraduate education majors has declined 55%.

Additionally, since 2009, the number of newly issued in-state instructional teaching certificates has dropped by 71%, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Pennsylvania used to issue licenses to more than 14,000 new teachers annually. In 2016-17, the state issued 4,412.

Dr. Diane Fine, a professor at California University of Pennsylvania’s College of Education, has watched the decline in the ranks of students seeking education degrees across all disciplines.

Fall enrollment for education majors at the university has dropped below 551 each year since 2014.

In the fall of 2018, 452 aspiring teachers enrolled in Cal’s education program, almost 100 fewer than in 2014.

“These are definitely challenging times, no doubt, in education. I tell my students that they’re entering teaching at a challenging time,” said Fine. “It is tougher to recruit students into education programs.”

The teacher shortage is most pronounced in math and science, with graduates joining the corporate world – including STEM fields – where jobs offer greater pay and stability.

While Canon-McMillan School District continues to draw quality teacher candidates, the pool of candidates is getting shallower in those fields, along with foreign language, said Superintendent Michael Daniels.

“It’s become more and more difficult to find people with those skill sets,” said Daniels. “It’s not unusual to get 200-plus applications for an elementary position, but for physics, computer science, math, science and foreign language, those are the ones you hope you can get a couple applications. And in the case of physics, you hope you can find one.”

Canon-McMillan, like many other school districts across the state, also struggles to attract enough substitutes to cover vacancies.

And in addition to a declining supply of new classroom educators and a shortage of substitutes, many Pennsylvania districts also see high attrition rates among teachers.

Dr. James Longo, chairman of the Department of Education at Washington & Jefferson College, said Pennsylvania colleges and universities traditionally have been one of the largest educator pipelines in the country.

“Pennsylvania is a state that produces teachers. We export teachers,” said Longo. “Most states will hire a teacher from Pennsylvania because our standards for teaching are so high, and because of the academically rigorous coursework. School districts know they are prepared. But even though we’ve been producing more teachers than we could use in the past, the state is experiencing a significant drop in teachers going into the profession. There are a number of reasons for that.”

Among them, educators say, are low pay, school violence, an emphasis on testing requirements and insufficient resources.

“I also think part of the challenge is that right now teaching is not a well-respected profession,” said Fine. “So many people think it’s an easy job, with weekends off and holidays off and summers off, and teachers aren’t respected for what they do.”

Canon-McMillan’s Daniels said teachers work under increasingly challenging conditions and are being called upon to do more than ever for students experiencing mental health and other issues.

“All of those factors could contribute to one shying away from the field,” said Daniels.

Last summer, the Pennsylvania Department of Education awarded about $2 million in grants to eight universities, including Indiana University of Pennsylvania, to develop and implement yearlong residency programs for teachers and principals, in order to increase and retain teachers and school leaders.

California University of Pennsylvania offers 10 full scholarships through its Rutledge Institute to prepare students for careers as preschool and elementary school teachers.

The Rutledge Institute also provides annual scholarships for 20 children to attend the institute’s on-campus preschool program, with whom the Rutledge Institute scholars work.

Longo said he encourages prospective teachers to enter the field if it’s a career they love, despite the challenges.

“People who go into education often go into it for idealistic, child-centered reasons,” said Longo. “I tell my students all the time, this can be the best job in the world. But if you don’t go into it for the right reasons, it will be the worst job you could have.”

Fine agreed. “In the conversations I have with students, we talk about how most of us who end up being great teachers love teaching. It’s born into us and we have a compassion for children,” said Fine. “You want to make an impact, you want to make a difference in a student’s life. That’s why you teach.”

Months of aftershocks could follow big California earthquake

RIDGECREST, Calif. – Officials in Southern California expressed relief Saturday that damage and injuries weren’t worse after the largest earthquake the region has seen in nearly 20 years, while voicing concerns about the possibility of major aftershocks in the days and even months to come.

No fatalities or major injuries were reported after Friday night’s 7.1-magnitude earthquake, which jolted an area from Sacramento to Mexico and prompted the evacuation of the Navy’s largest single landholding, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the Mojave Desert.

The quake struck at 8:19 p.m. Friday and was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest, the same area of the desert where a 6.4-magnitude temblor hit just a day earlier. It left behind cracked and burning buildings, broken roads, obstructed railroad tracks and leaking water and gas lines.

The light damage was largely due to the remoteness of the area where the earthquake occurred, but Gov. Gavin Newsom cautioned after touring Ridgecrest that “it’s deceiving, earthquake damage. You don’t notice it at first.”

He estimated more than $100 million in economic damages and said President Donald Trump called him to offer federal support in the rebuilding effort.

“He’s committed in the long haul, the long run, to help support the rebuilding efforts,” Newsom said of Trump.

Only 28,000 people live in the Ridgecrest area, which is sandwiched between more populated areas of Southern California and Las Vegas’ Clark County. But seismologists warned that the area could see up to 30,000 aftershocks over the next six months.

April Hamlin said she was “already on edge” when the second quake rattled her Ridgecrest home. She and her three kids initially thought it was another aftershock.

“But it just kept on intensifying,” she said. “The TV went over, hanging by the cord. We heard it break. We heard glass breakage in the other rooms, but all we could do was stay where we were until it stopped.”

With the possibility of aftershocks and temperatures forecast to reach 100 degrees over the next several days, officials were taking precautions.

The California National Guard was sending 200 troops, logistical support and aircraft, Maj. Gen. David Baldwin said. The Pentagon had been notified, and the entire California Military Department was put on alert, he said.

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake said in a Facebook post that nonessential workers were evacuated and operations halted. The epicenters of both quakes were on the base, and officials said they are continuing to assess damage. Officials said most employees live off the base and in Ridgecrest, but they authorized the evacuation so those who live on base can be eligible for reimbursements.

The California Office of Emergency Services brought in cots, water and meals and set up cooling centers in the region, Director Mark Ghilarducci said.

State highway officials shut down a 30-mile section of State Route 178 between Ridgecrest and the town of Trona southwest of Death Valley because of a rockslide and severe cracking. The move left Trona temporarily cut off. California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Christine Knadler said crews worked through the night to patch the roadway, but it remained rough and uneven.

Ron Mikulaco, 51, and his nephew, 23-year-old Brad Fernandez, stood on 178 on Saturday looking at the cracks. The pair drove from Huntington Beach, about 170 miles southwest of Ridgecrest. Mikulaco, an amateur geologist, wanted to show his nephew “the power of Mother Nature,” and they had the epicenter’s latitude and longitude coordinates ready.

“We put that in the GPS, and we’ll get as close as we can,” Fernandez said.

In Ridgecrest, local fire and police officials said they were initially swamped by calls for medical and ambulance service. But police Chief Jed McLaughlin said there was “nothing but minor injuries such as cuts and bruises, by the grace of God.”

Two building fires – one involving a mobile home – were quickly doused, McLaughlin said, and natural gas lines where leaks were reported were shut off.

When asked to describe what he has been going through in the past two days, the chief said: “Grief, shock and then, for me, pride in what I’ve seen from here, my people. It’s been a vast range of emotions, and I think the whole community’s going through that.”

In Trona, a town of about 2,000 people considered the gateway to Death Valley, fire officials said up to 50 structures were damaged. San Bernardino County Supervisor Robert Lovingood said FEMA delivered a tractor-trailer full of bottled water because of damage to water lines. Newsom declared a state of emergency for the county.

Julia Doss, who maintains the Trona Neighborhood Watch page on Facebook, said the only food store in town is a Family Dollar store that was shuttered Saturday.

“The only way to get food is to drive to Ridgecrest, and with only three gas stations in town I’m worried we may soon run out of fuel,” Doss said.

Antoun Abdullatif, 59, owns liquor stores and other businesses in Ridgecrest and Trona.

“I would say 70% of my inventory is on the floor, broken,” he said. “Every time you sweep and you put stuff in the dust bin, you’re putting $200 in the trash.”

But he has stopped cleaning up, believing another earthquake is on the way.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology and a former science adviser at the U.S. Geological Survey, said the new quake probably ruptured along about 25 miles of fault line and was part of a continuing sequence. The seismic activity is unlikely to affect fault lines outside of the area, Jones said, noting that the gigantic San Andreas Fault is far away.

Egill Hauksson, another Caltech seismologist, said later in the day that scientists believe the continuing sequence could produce more than 30,000 quakes of magnitude 1 or greater over six months. He said the probability of a magnitude 7 over the next week is about 3%, but one or two magnitude 6 quakes are expected.

Researchers hoping to reduce water use at power plants

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Researchers at West Virginia University are testing an idea to help save freshwater resources by combining wastewater from power plants with wastewater from fracking.

The Dominion Post reports the power industry is the biggest water user in West Virginia. Nationally, it is the second biggest, behind agriculture. And fracking produces a lot of wastewater, called produced water – maybe 500,000 to 1 million gallons per well.

Thermoelectric plants use water in heat exchangers. Over time, some of the water evaporates and the natural salts in the water become concentrated to the point where they could foul the cooling system. That water is called blowdown water. It has to be treated before it can be further recirculated or returned to a river or lake.

Meanwhile, produced water from fracking contains other substances that could harm the cooling towers, like magnesium, calcium and strontium. But when the two wastewater streams are mixed together, the chemicals combine in a way to precipitate out of the water. This produces clean water to recirculate as well as two beneficial byproducts: chlorine to disinfect the cooling system and 10-pound brine that has several industrial applications.

“The beauty of this approach is you solve two problems with one integrated solution,” said Lance Lin, a civil and environmental engineering professor and principal investigator on the project.

Lin said they are still in the early stages of the project. They’ve determined the mixing ratio to get the best results and now are looking at treatments that could further clean the wastewater.

The researchers obtained fracking wastewater from WVU’s Northeast Natural Energy research well at the Morgantown Industrial Park and blowdown water from the Longview Power plant.

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of WVU’s Water Research Institute, came up with the idea for the project. He said it might not be a system that will be practical everywhere, but it is in West Virginia, which has a high concentration of coal and gas fired power plants sitting atop the nation’s biggest natural gas play.

“If you’re going to start anywhere, this is the place to start,” he said

The project is funded by a $400,000 Department of Energy grant.