Richmond School Board approves increasing incentives to fill teacher vacancies

Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 11:27 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Richmond School Board approved increasing incentives to hire new teachers as the division faces 176 teacher vacancies with six weeks until the school year begins.

“What I am focused on tonight is the next six weeks we are facing. Truly, in my time in education, I have never seen a shortage of teachers like this,” Superintendent Jason Kamras said.

In a presentation Monday night, the school division stated that last school year saw its greatest number of resignations because of the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

School division leaders expressed it’s not just happening in Richmond but also across the country.

“To have so many teachers leave is a damning indictment of a school district and/or of a profession,” school board member Jonathan Young said. “No way around it. By my calculation, we lost a fourth of our teachers - 25.6%.”

According to data presented to the board, there were a little over a hundred teacher vacancies this time last year.

This year shows 222 positions open, including those on teacher contracts, like guidance counselors.

Incentives now approved would give teachers who move more than 50 miles to Richmond up to a $6,000 moving stipend.

The division would also now give teachers with more than two years of experience in certain fields a $4,000 sign-on bonus for staying with RPS for two years.

New teachers will also receive a $2,000 sign-on bonus.

All new incentives have a clawback if new teachers decide to leave early.

“I want to be clear, money does not solve everything, and the reason why people go and stay is about much more than money,” Kamras said. “That being said, it is important, it is meaningful, and it does affect people’s ability to raise a family, to pay rent, to pay a mortgage, and so on.”

Some in the crowd Monday night expressed their concerns for returning teachers, wondering where their pay bonus is.

“It just makes people feel that they are unappreciated when somebody new is coming in, and they’re already going to make more than them,” one public commenter said. “They’re automatically getting a bonus, but they’ve been here 15 to 20 years, and they’re making less than a brand new teacher.”

Kamras said part of the hope of the $3,000 bonus given in the spring and the additional $1,000 coming this fall was for teachers to want to stay at RPS.

“I felt it was more respectful to give those funds as a thank you with the hope that many folks would stay,” Kamras said. “Rather than after two very hard years to say, ‘hey, we’ll give you that $3,000, but not unless you come back.’”

Also, Monday night,l the school board approved making the new George Wythe High School theme focused on art with some STEM-related classes.

The board also approved shortening next year’s school calendar by two weeks, with the last day being June 9 instead of June 23.

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