A week before the start of the 2022-23 school year, Spotsylvania County Public Schools has 114 teaching vacancies, up from 162 a month ago.
Acting Superintendent Kelly Guempel provided the school board with a staffing update at a special meeting Aug. 3, the third special meeting called in as many weeks to approve staffing packages.
Guempel said the school division’s staffing needs are “critical.”
“We need help – more bodies, more people. We need more teachers, more paras and we definitely need more substitutes,” he said.
The number of vacancies on Wednesday was down 13 from last week’s update, and Guempel said “a few offers are pending.”
Guempel provided a clarification of his remarks last week, when he said the school year would begin with all classes covered.
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He said “covered” could mean there is another teacher, building administrator or long-term substitute in charge of a class for that day or block of time.
“‘Covered’ means you get creative by covering all classes,” he said. “No one thinks ‘overcast’ means we’re in good shape. It just means we’re ready to start lessons for that day.
The biggest concern right now is class sizes, Guempel said.
“[Class size] decreases with every license rental we have,” he said.
Guempel said the school division has “strengthened” its support systems for new teachers because there will be so many new teachers — and teachers new to Spotsylvania — in the buildings.
Each new teacher is assigned a mentor and there will also be two “roving mentors” who move around the division to provide support to new hires.
“I asked the directors to … make sure these people are taken care of,” Guempel said.
Guempel and school board members asked parents to be patient at the start of the school year and also encouraged their involvement.
“The best school divisions are ones where everyone works together — parents, teachers, students, everyone on the same page,” Guempel said. “Join the PTSO, enter these buildings. I guarantee it will be a better experience than if you didn’t.”
Spotsylvania is not alone in facing a teacher shortage. Across the country, school districts are scrambling to find people to put in front of students when they return to class.
Dan Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, told the Washington Post the shortage is worse than he’s ever seen.
“Right now it’s No. 1 on the list of issues that concern school districts,” he said.