RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — More than a thousand instructional, support and administrative jobs in the Richmond area remain vacant as the countdown to the 2022-2023 school year approaches and school divisions continue to increase recruitment efforts.

The breakdown:

  • Area division human resource pages showed Chesterfield County Public Schools has 541 jobs listed to serve their 61,000 students.
  • Henrico County Public Schools, with 48,702 students, has more than 290 instructional openings.
  • Richmond Public Schools, with 28,240 students, has 300 job openings.
  • Hanover Public Schools, with 17,000 students, has 120 job openings, with a specific need for 59 bus drivers and custodians.
  • Petersburg Public Schools, with 4,000 students, is seeking to fill 50 positions, including a superintendent.
  • Powhatan County Public Schools, with 4,200 students, is seeking to fill 30 openings, and Goochland County Public Schools, with 2,500 students, has 20 openings.
Banners on yellow school buses stationed in high-visibility areas around the Hanover County have information on how to become a bus driver. Photo credit: Hanover County Public Schools

The lack of staffing is concerning for parents and educators.

In a post focusing on the vacancies on the Chesterfield for Communication and Equity in Schools Facebook page, commenters expressed concern about unqualified and inexperienced people assuming positions.

“What kind of kindergarten experience will a child in a low-income school with a first-year teacher hired at the last minute with no real useable curriculum or textbooks or resources have?,” one comment on Facebook said. “CCPS has pacing guides and quarterly instruction guides but teachers have to come up with everything. CCPS doesn’t have textbooks or boxed curriculum that is widely used. Experiences vary widely from place to place depending on the experience and willingness of the team to share. It’s so problematic especially when people are going to be put in at the last minute. And of those going in at the last minute, most are recent grads. They need curriculum, workbooks, textbooks. CCPS doesn’t support that.”

Educators commenting in the group brought up the challenging environment for CCPS staff over the past year, unsafe conditions due to COVID and vitriol directed at them by parents as well as low pay as reasons that make the profession challenging.

The teachers did not wish to be quoted, fearing retribution.

School divisions have numerous efforts and outreach to raise awareness about the vacancies.

“Our top hiring priorities remain recruitment of teaching staff, followed by bus drivers,” said Sarah Abubakar, Associate Director of Advocacy and Outreach at Richmond Public Schools, in an email statement. “Recruitment of bi-lingual staff is important to RPS because our demographics continue to trend to an increase in Spanish-speaking students and families and we feel that it is important that our staff be representative and reflective of the students we serve.” 

To raise awareness about the positions, RPS is holding regular recruitment events, and advertising on local radio, social media and to the RPS community.

“We are also working on a billboard campaign and other forms of traditional advertising to recruit in the local area,” Abubakar said.

RPS is also offering $2,000 signing bonuses to new staff, which existing staffers have bristled at on social media pages, expressing feelings of anxiety that the bonus does not reward their loyalty.

Henrico held a job fair on Thursday, July 14, at Varina-Henrico Public Library. On Tuesday, July 26, the Chesterfield County Public Schools will hold a job fair for food service and bus driver positions at Manchester Middle School, located at 7401 Hull Street Road.

Chris Whitley, assistant superintendent for legislative and community affairs at Hanover County Public Schools, said his division is taking some creative approaches to publicizing the job openings.

Through September, Hanover is offering a $1,000 sign-on incentive for new bus drivers. In addition to the base rate of pay and other benefits, such as a flexible schedule, medical benefits and paid training, bus drivers who sign on between now and September will earn $500 after their first 60 days of employment and $500 at the end of the first semester of next school year.

Hanover has a $2,000 employee referral incentive to help fill positions in critical shortage areas, like bus drivers, food service employees, custodians and certain teaching positions.

The county’s provisional Academy for Teachers in Hanover (PATH) was recently approved by the Virginia Department of Education.

“This program, which is one of the first of its kind in Virginia, is a three-year program led by HCPS personnel to support our provisionally licensed teachers by offering concentrated in-house curriculum, a collaborative environment and job-embedded experiences to become successful and grow in their profession,” Whitley said. “Teachers who complete this program will have a full teaching license, saving them thousands of dollars by completing this coursework in-house versus having to complete the required coursework at a college or university.

Hanover is highlighting new educators on social media and held an “I Might Want to Teach” event to recruit people with a college degree who want to learn more about teaching as a career choice.

And, to get in front of the public, Hanover Public Schools will have a booth at the Hanover Tomato Festival on July 15 and 16.

Dr. Kim McKnight, director of VCU’s Center for Teacher Leadership and executive director of RTR Richmond Teacher Residency program at the School of Education, acknowledged that educators have gone through a lot in the past few years, resulting in a great numbers of educators resigning.

She said there are also many barriers to entering education including the cost of the degree and certification.

RTR Richmond Teacher Residency at VCU's Center for Teacher Leadership
A trainee with the Richmond Teacher Residency instructs students in a classroom. Photo credit: Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Teacher Leadership

RTR places approximately 50 future teachers each year throughout the region in instructional roles and will expand to administration in its funded program, where participants work alongside a classroom mentor.

One approach RTR is taking is recruiting current instructional assistants and helping them get a degree and credentials as a ready pool.

Her program teaches future educators to be advocates to ensure they have the support networks, which she said is especially important in the current charged atmosphere.

“As a former classroom teacher and parent, I have no greater respect for teachers,” McKnight said. “Parents see how critically important teachers are.”