HANOVER COUNTY, Va. — The last of four school districts in Central Virginia return to the classroom on Tuesday including Hanover, New Kent, Colonial Heights and Prince George.
Hanover County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Gill said during a Friday interview that the district has not been immune to the staffing shortages that have plagued school systems nationwide.
But Gill credited the hard work of his human resources staff for filling all but three teacher positions before the first day of school.
“There will be a teacher in every classroom on the first day of school,” Gill stated. “Our human resources department has done a phenomenal job of staffing but working in conjunction with our building leaders. But truly we think of all our employees as being ambassadors for the school division and really selling the school division.”
Longterm substitutes will fill the teacher vacancies until a permanent solution is found.
HCPS also has 44 bus driver vacancies.
“We are better off than we were this time last year in terms of those vacancies. In addition, we have 13 drivers right now that are completing their training are in the pipeline and will hopefully be starting in the coming days and weeks. That will make that situation even better. Transportation is always a challenge and don't want to shy away from that,” Gill explained.
Gill is returning for his eighth year as leader of HCPS.
CBS 6 has heard from several teachers across Metro Richmond who said they left the profession over stagnant salaries and burnout, in addition to other reasons.
Yet, Gene Matthews is returning to the classroom for his 31st year. He teaches government at Patrick Henry High School and serves as president for the Hanover Education Association (HEA).
Matthews spoke about a family-like atmosphere within the school walls.
“It’s their number one goal whether your central administration, school board, faculty staff is to provide the best education possible for the students. I think while you have hard and difficult years — that's a given. But you want you keep wanting to come back. That's why I'm coming back from my 31st year. We'll see after that, you know, most folks begin to kind of think about the next step, but I'm still having a really good time teaching,” Matthews explained.
Matthews said HEA has a direct line of communication with central staff and administrations, which allows them to address issues.
Gill estimated that nearly 90% of HCPS staff will return to the classroom year.
“[Educators] could probably go into a field that that pays them a lot more money. So, you really have got to love what you do. I tell my students when they asked me for career advice, I basically say you want to find something that you really enjoy, but also something that's going to meet all your financial commitments that you might have,” Matthews recalled.