RICHMOND, Va. -- With just 28 days until school starts, Richmond still has 270 open positions throughout its division, including 163 teacher vacancies.
The vacancies will be discussed at Monday's night Richmond Public School (RPS) Board meeting, where the board will be updated on hiring efforts.
According to documents posted online, the 163 vacancies is down from 209 on July 15. There are 53 elementary school teacher vacancies (down from 78 on July 15), 65 middle school teacher vacancies (down from 77 on July 15), and 45 high school teacher vacancies (down from 54 on July 15).
The other vacancies include nine bus operators with five offers pending (down from 18 on July 15), 50 food service assistants (down from 67 on July 15), 13 custodians (same as July 15), six nurses (up from five on July 15), two school social workers (same as July 15), and 27 central office staff vacancies.
"That's a lot, you know, with only a few weeks to go. I mean, that seems pretty high," Jenny Aghomo, an RPS parent, said in reference to the teacher vacancies.
Aghomo, a parent of two, said she is worried about the teachers and adds while it seems this is a yearly issue, COVID-19 has played a role in the problem.
"It's been very hard for everybody, but I know, especially for teachers," Aghomo said.
Sarah Abubaker with RPS said that the biggest vacancy numbers are those who teach math, science and history.
"We're continuing to just go 200 miles an hour trying to hire as many teachers and critical support staff as we can before the start of school on August 29," Abubaker said.
She added among what they are doing is expanding their advertising campaign to the Mid-Atlantic region and offering $6,000 in moving expenses if people come from outside Central Virginia.
Additionally, if you are a teacher with two or more years of experience we are offering a $4,000 signing incentive," added Abubaker. "We've got signing bonuses and flexible schedules for other critical staffing areas $2,000 for teachers and critical subject matter areas."
They also plan to ask recently retired teachers if they will come back to their former positions, utilizing a state law.
"You will be able to retain your full retirement pension or benefits in addition to your full salary as a teacher or support staff member at a school system," Abubaker said.
RPS has also announced retention bonuses, but Aghomo said they also need to look at why this is an issue, looking at specific schools and areas.
"If you look, you'll see that the clusters of teachers that are leaving...they're from a specific department. So what is going on in that department as to why teachers we want to leave?" said Aghomo. "I think that a lot of it does have to do with the fact that they are not being heard or treated right."
Jonathan Young, a 4th District Representative with the Richmond School Board, agrees with Aghomo.
Young said RPS lost over 25% of its teachers from last year. Young said among what the board needs to do is reorder how school leadership is evaluated.
"The most important metric, how many teachers do you retain?" said Young.
Regarding retention, Abubaker said RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras will launch a new advisory group in the fall with teachers and parents to look at the issue.
"If that means, you know, middle management or or maybe it just means more support in terms of curriculum or flexibility. We'll be looking at all of that," said Abubaker.
In the meantime, as the continue hiring efforts Abubaker said they are planning for what to do if they don't get enough teachers, including long-term substitutes.
"In addition to that, we'll be looking at just overall operations of classrooms. If there are some classrooms that are smaller, can we consolidate," said Abubaker.
Aghomo said the city should do whatever it takes, but added she has faith the issues will be addressed.
"Just make it better to be a teacher," said Aghomo. "Make it worthwhile."