RICHMOND, Va. -- With just two weeks until the start of the school year, Richmond Public Schools is planning to utilize long-term substitutes to fill vacancies.
As of August 12, RPS reported 148 teacher vacancies. Superintendent Jason Kamras said about 100 of those vacancies will be filled with long-term substitutes, many of which are said to be in the process of becoming certified teachers.
"Everybody is going to have a qualified adult in front of them, it may not be a fully licensed teacher by day one, but we're getting that number lower and lower day by day," Kamras said.
According to the district, substitutes must complete about 60 hours of college credits from an accredited college or university by the Virginia Department of Education.
Contracts for long-term substitutes are said to last up to 90 days but can be renewed.
"We screen them just like we would screen teacher candidates as well, to make sure that they have not just the minimum requirements, but also the ability to connect with children, to teach with children, but again, of course, our goal is to have a fully licensed teacher in every classroom," he said.
However, there is the issue of "hard-to-fill" schools, those that see more vacancies more often.
Right now, River City Middle School leads with 17 vacancies. George Wythe High School follows second with 11.
"Some schools present more challenges than other schools," Kamras said. "It may be the state of the facility, it may be the level of trauma that children are bringing with them every day into the classroom and that's hard to work through and manage and support kids. It could be all sorts of different factors."
At Monday night's school board meeting, several members said more resources were needed in order to hire and retain educators at schools seeing the most turnover.
"At some point, we need to address why are these schools hard to fill?" said Cheryl Burke. "We all know the answers, but money isn't going to solve that problem. That goes back to resources, that goes back to the wellness piece, that goes back to support pieces in places, that goes back to the mental health piece, that goes back to the overall care. As we talk about money right now, at the end of the day, are we helping our students in the long run? Teachers can't do it all, but we try."
The board did task Kamras to come up with a plan to not only offer incentives for new teachers coming to hard-to-fill schools but also to give some kind of bonus or stipend to teachers who have stayed in these schools.
Kamras said as of right now, RPS has the highest pay in Central Virginia, not only for teachers but for substitutes too.
"We have up to $10,000 in incentives, $6,000 if you're moving from outside of Richmond to Richmond, a $4,000 signing bonus for teachers with experience, and a $2,000 signing bonus for new teachers," he said. "So if you're moving from out of town, and you've got experience, $10,000, come on over to RPS."