BISMARCK – A proposal to allow community experts to teach in hard-to-fill positions cleared a hurdle Monday with the state teacher licensing board, despite teachers' objections.

The draft rule would allow school districts that cannot fill a teaching opening to apply to the board to hire a community professional with experience in a field related to the teaching position.

In changes made Monday, the Education Standards and Practices Board specified that schools could hire community experts to teach only in non-core subject areas, such as art, health, physical education and music. The rule will last for only one year, at which point, members could choose to extend it.

The board met via conference call to hash out the details of the rule after deciding unanimously last week to move forward with the plan to address North Dakota's teacher shortage.

The draft rule goes to Gov. Jack Dalrymple for approval.

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Board members indicated they would spend the next year researching better solutions to the teacher shortage, said Janet Welk, executive director of the board.

"I'm feeling like this is coming at us too fast and furious," said board member Karen Christensen, a teacher in Wishek.

She asked that the board table the matter to allow more time for research into the teacher shortage and recruitment efforts. The board narrowly opted to continue the rule-making process, voting 4-3 against her request.

"The teachers on my staff were all totally against the waiver," Christensen said.

Board member Mike McNeff, who is superintendent of Rugby Public Schools, said the board needed to act now to address the shortage. The Department of Public Instruction said last week there were 184 teaching positions still open in North Dakota.

The need is particularly dire in rural districts that cannot attract applicants as easily as schools in bigger cities, said McNeff, who witnessed the struggle during recent visits to teacher career fairs in South Dakota and the Fargo-Moorhead area.

"People are showing up left and right to go to West Fargo and sit in their line, but they don't want anything to do with Rugby," he said. "We are, as administrators, doing everything we can to fill positions, but we're not getting applicants."

North Dakota United, the union that represents the state's teachers and public employees, sent a letter to the board last week outlining concerns over the proposal. The union issued a statement Monday afternoon as the board meeting wrapped up, saying the rule "is not ready for prime time."

"While I sympathize with school district superintendents who do not attract or retain teachers, this stop-gap measure is not likely to do what it is intended to do," NDU President Nick Archuleta said. "This action by the ESPB, in effect, again lowers the required standards for teaching in North Dakota."