A week out from the start of school, RCSD faces over 100 vacancies

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Rochester City School District has nearly 100 openings for certified positions – mostly teachers and substitutes, as well as school counselors, and leadership staff. On top of that, RCSD still needs dozens of bus drivers, administrators, and other support staff. They’re one of many districts struggling in the area.

“Teacher shortages is definitely a real concern and something that is on my mind,” President of the Monroe Co. Council of Superintendents Mary Grow said. “We’ve seen fewer and fewer applicants over the last five years […] I think there are fewer people pursuing a career in education. And that’s troublesome for the future particularly.”

In the RCSD, the city brought in 150 new teachers for this upcoming school year, which is roughly the same amount they hired last year. That’s according to president of the Rochester Teachers’ association Adam Urbanski.

He says part of the problem is that teachers aren’t staying. The amount of teachers that quit mid-school-year has now outnumbered those who are retiring at the end of the year. With a shrinking applicant pool, RCSD is struggling to pull in qualified candidates.

“We’re not the only ones,” Urbanski said. “Virtually all districts have shortages of teachers, and so we’re in a very competitive market.”

Federal data shows that New York has often had shortages in certain areas, but the fields facing shortages have only grown in recent years. Grow said that the lack of candidates speaks to a declining interest in teaching as a whole.

“I think that really speaks to the narrative of maybe how this country views teachers, and what we need to do to change that narrative,” she said.

Long-term, Grow said she’d like to see a bigger effort to highlight education as a career path. Short-term, Urbanski said the RCSD is doing their best with hiring events, and increased incentives. As part of that push, Urbanski said the RTA has been working to finalize a union contract for substitute teachers ahead of the school year.

“I’m confident that we will reach a settlement and I think that that will help some of the vacancies,” he said.

But there are some problems facing RCSD that a contract may not be able to solve. One such area Urbanski gets complaints in is safety. As car thefts continue, many teachers in the city fear the worst.

“Can you imagine having to worry while you’re teaching whether you’ll find your car in the parking lot?” he said. “A lot of our teachers are carpooling, some wont even drive anymore, they have their spouses drop them off.”

Urbanski said that RCSD’s new superintendent, Dr. Carmine Peluso, has worked closely with the RTA as they all try to fill the gaps for 2023-2024. The RCSD – and suburban districts with the same problems, according to Grow – have a plan to ensure all kids have access to the courses they want and need. This plan mostly includes breaking up classes without instructors, and placing those students under other teachers, increasing class sizes.

As RCSD and surrounding school districts continue to recruit amid the shortage, they’ll be competing against each other.

“I think the district that will survive well, are the ones who will think out of the box and figure out creative ways to be more competitive in a very competitive environment.”

News10NBC reached out several times to RCSD for comment but has not yet heard back. Should they provide a statement, it will be included here.