With a fourth of the school staff gone, Richmond increases hiring incentives

Posted at 10:46 AM, Jul 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 10:46:53-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond Public Schools and their board approved additional funding to recruit and retain teachers after a fourth of the staff vacated the job.

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras and his staff are looking for 176 classroom teachers before the start of the school year, he said during a Monday night school board meeting at Thomas Jefferson High School.

Of the 176 vacancies, 63 are among elementary and preschool, 65 among middle and 48 among the high school level.

River City Middle School has the most teacher vacancies at 21, according to the presentation.

Kamras said RPS started the 2021 fall school year with a greater number of vacancies than in the past because of the stresses of the virtual year.

“The past year was extremely stressful and exhausting for teachers — perhaps the most so in decades,” Kamras wrote in the presentation. “The pandemic caused a record number of absences, which resulted in teachers losing planning time and other breaks, larger class sizes and frequent disruptions. In addition, the trauma experienced by students during the pandemic created an even more challenging teaching environment. Finally, many teachers fell ill themselves and experienced significant mental health challenges throughout the year. As a result, we saw a greater number of resignations during and at the end of the year than in years past.”

The board approved a moving stipend for new teachers offering $6,000 to move at least 50 miles away. They also approved a $4,000 signing bonus for teachers with two year's experience, and all new teachers would receive a $2,000 signing bonus.

Each of the incentives include a claw-back clause.

“We are competing with school systems around the country,” said RPS School Board Member Cheryl Burke. “There are young persons that I know of, ‘we are leaving D.C. and going to NY. The HR person offered it to me right there on the spot. $3,000 to move.’ This is happening and to great teachers. ‘We are moving from this place to that place.’ Young, single. Females, males. Black, white, Asian. Okay? They are moving.”

Burke also acknowledged that they are competing for the same workforce as Fortune 500 companies, in addition to local school districts.

“We have people right here in the City of Richmond, many that have degrees that aren’t certified in education. Many people that would change careers to come to us, but we are also competing with Capital One and Carmax and they can stay at home and work — and get bonuses and then some, so I have been told,” Burke recalled.

Kamras was also asked for his contingency plan if the district did not hire enough teachers before the first day.

“We are talking about substitutes. Deploying staff that are license that aren’t in classrooms. We are talking about collapsing classrooms with slightly larger classes. We are putting everything on the table as necessary,” he responded.