50+ teaching positions remain vacant in Richmond weeks before school starts

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Public Schools is working to fill more than 50 vacant teaching positions with about 10 working days before the first day of classes.

Richmond Schools Chief of Staff Michelle Hudacsko presented the updated data to the Richmond School Board during a Monday evening meeting at City Hall.

Currently, there are 52 teaching positions that are unfilled, 21 of which are at the elementary level, 22 at the secondary level, and officials are searching for nine special education teachers.

Hudacsko told the board that their focus is at Carver Elementary which has five vacancies, Elkhardt-Thompson Middle which has four open positions, and George Wythe High School which has seven vacancies.

Hudacsko explained that Carver's vacancies stemmed from the recent resignations of five teachers involved in an SOL cheating scandal. Four of the seven current vacancies at George Wythe are based from a "miscommunication" of contracts with English as a Second Language teachers, according to Hudacsko.

Richmond Schools officials were confident they would fill 100 percent of the vacancies. Officials are looking at long-term substitutes or retired teachers to fill those vacancies before the first day of classes on September 4.

"I know we will get better next year and this is no easy task," Richmond School Board member Elizabeth Doerr said. "I’m sad to see we are not fully there and this was an ambitious target. I know you guys have put a ton of work into it."

There were close to 100 vacant teaching positions at the start of August.

The need for STEM teachers

Hudascko told the Richmond School Board during their August 6 meeting that there was a "critical shortage" among math and science teachers on the secondary level.

She explained that a critical shortage occurs when there are less than three qualified candidates for a certain position. This now allows Richmond Schools to hire retired teachers for a one-year period to fill the position.

Ultimately, the school system would prefer to fill current vacancies with candidates looking for long-term employment.

"We don’t have a specific preference for new teachers versus more tenured teachers. We are of course looking for licensed teachers," Hudascko explained.

The goal is to have a permanent teacher in every classroom by the start of the school year.