The Philadelphia School District wants to hire 900 teachers for the 2022-23 school year.
The number of new hires — about one-tenth of the current teacher workforce — would represent roughly the same number the district must hire each year to replace those who resign and retire. And though it’s heading into a new hiring season with some district classrooms still without a teacher, Larisa Shambaugh, the district’s chief talent officer, said it would be wrong to focus on the midyear resignations.
“We have 9,100 teachers, the vast, vast majority of which stayed during this time,” said Shambaugh at a news conference kicking off the campaign Thursday.
The campaign, called “Teach Today, Change Tomorrow,” comes amid a difficult year for educators everywhere, the third one touched by the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the same time the district continues to struggle with midyear resignations. The number of Philadelphia teachers quitting between mid-December and Feb. 15 was up 200%, to 169, over the same period last school year, and 93% over the same period in 2019-20, the last before the pandemic.
Shambaugh said the district started the school year 98% staffed and is now about 96.5% staffed. Though it has hired about 150 teachers from December through March, attrition means there are still open positions.
Jenifer Felix, a teacher at Kensington Health Sciences, said the “really tough” year is more reason for those passionate about teaching Philadelphia’s children to join the district.
The school system “needs people who really believe in the potential of our children — the specific children we teach,” said Felix, who has been a teacher for 23 years and a district teacher for six.
“In Philadelphia, I found different programs and fresh ideas, a community of teachers who loved teaching and learning,” said Felix.
One way the district hopes to boost its teacher pipeline is through pathways that equip paraprofessionals to become classroom teachers. The school board just agreed to spend $2.5 million on two-year programs that will give the paraprofessionals free tuition to Cheyney University, La Salle University, Drexel University, or College Unbound.
Christopher Rocks, a former district special-education assistant, used an existing teacher residency with Temple University to make the leap to teacher. He’s a resident at Mayfair Elementary this year and will soon become a certified special-education teacher.
“I decided to go into education because I want to help the students of our great city overcome their social, emotional, and educational challenges,” said Rocks. The residency smoothed the way, he said.
The district’s average teacher salary is about $82,000; its starting teacher pay will rise to $50,000 in the fall.
All teachers will be paid a $1,000 bonus in the fall, and some will be eligible for $5,000 retention bonuses — split over two years — if they stay through June 2024.