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Providence begins school year with 162 teaching vacancies

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s largest school district continues to be plagued by a severe teacher shortage, with 101 classrooms not filled with a permanent, full-time certified teacher on the first day of school on Monday.

There were a total of 162 unfilled teaching jobs on the first day of school, according to district spokesman Nick Domings. This larger tally includes non-class positions such as guidance counselors and social workers.

Vacant classroom positions will be filled by substitutes until permanent teachers are hired.

The state-controlled school district was rushing to hire teachers in the weeks before classes started but saw a number of quits in the last week of summer, Domings said.

Resignations exceeded hirings: two weeks before the start of the school year, there were 90 vacancies in class.

The 101 classroom vacancies puts the district at 94% of fully equipped classrooms at the start of the school year, below the state’s “recovery action plan” goal of 96 %.

This target had already been revised downwards by 98% by 2024, after the initial recovery plan was modified to take into account the setbacks linked to the pandemic. The new plan calls for 98% of classrooms to be fully staffed by 2026.

The baseline number before the state takeover was 95% of fully staffed classrooms at the start of the school year.

“At the end of the day, I want 100% in the classroom,” RI Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green told Target 12 in an interview that aired Monday night. She said the teacher shortage was both a national problem and a Rhode Island problem.

In an effort to address the shortage, Infante-Green said Providence is offering a host of bonuses, including a $10,000 retention bonus for new teachers who take hard-to-fill jobs and stay for three years; a $500 referral bonus for existing teachers to help find a new hire; and an $8,000 reimbursement for teachers to obtain ESL certification, a requirement for many jobs in Providence.

Current teachers also received a $3,000 bonus during contract negotiations last year. The district is using COVID relief funds to pay for the various incentives.

Providence teachers’ union president Maribeth Calabro said the incentives are helpful, but not enough to stem the tide of quits.

“They go to other districts,” Calabro said when asked why so many teachers quit. “It’s about respect, it’s about taking control. It’s a whole host of things that have to do with teachers feeling like they’re going to be treated like professionals elsewhere.

According to human resources data, as of last week, 232 teachers had resigned or retired in the 2022 calendar year so far. In 2021, a total of 280 teachers left, compared to 152 teacher departures in 2020.

Calabro said the number of 232 has already increased since last week, with resignations exceeding hirings in the district.

“It’s not for lack of trying,” Calabro said. “They tried to recruit, they offered incentives. I don’t know if that’s enough. »

She noted that 101 classroom vacancies equated to about 2,600 students.

“That’s a lot of kids who don’t have a teacher,” Calabro said.

“We need to entice people to come here, but we also need to entice those who stay,” she added.

Infante-Green said Providence is doing this by adding more teacher support, including a mentor for each teacher and creating a new cabinet of the superintendent of teachers, which she says will be a group of teachers who meet with the superintendent. Javier Montañez to discuss various concerns and ideas. .

“We have all of these things that other districts don’t have, and we’ve seen an influx of new teachers coming our way,” Infante-Green said. “They all want to be here because of the students.”

Steph Machado ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Get ready for back to school with 12 News This Morning starting at 6 a.m. weekdays for ongoing coverage and information that will help students, parents, and teachers this school year.

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