Twenty-five schools were invited to send new teachers to this year’s Ignite the Light program, but only 10 did.

“The problem is many principals were still hiring teachers after our orientation was held in mid-August,” says Cheryl Russell of the North Lawndale Learning Community, a network of 13 public schools.

Principals say late notice from retiring or transferring teachers sends them scrambling to fill vacancies as late as the first week of school. (A provision in the tentative new teacher contract would give retiring teachers a bonus if they notified the system in March.)

“I hear the program is wonderful, but we haven’t participated yet,” says Principal Robert Pales of Henson Elementary, who hired two teachers after the orientation.

Principal Betty Green of Herzl Elementary hired five new teachers just before school opened. “I wanted to get them involved in the program, but … these were all last minute,” she says.

Green suggests postponing the program, but organizers say that would conflict with the School Board’s new teacher orientation and the first day of school. Says Russell, “We’ll keep looking at what we can do.”

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