RPS aims to limit exits with hiring bonuses

George Copeland Jr. | 5/25/2023, 6 p.m.
Richmond Public Schools leadership is continuing efforts to address an ongoing shortage of teachers and support staff throughout the city’s ...
Mr. Kamras

Richmond Public Schools leadership is continuing efforts to address an ongoing shortage of teachers and support staff throughout the city’s school system.

During last week’s meeting at Thomas Jefferson High School, the Richmond School Board voted 8-0 to approve a measure increasing the bonus for teachers who work at schools with a large number of staff vacancies from $2,000 to $4,000. This increase will go into effect after June 1.

Teachers interested in the now $4,000 early hiring bonus would have to be hired by RPS before June 1 to receive it. The board’s plan will also provide separate bonuses to teachers that relocate to work in the school system and are bilingual.

The measure is part of a multipronged effort by RPS to address a shortage in teachers and staff across the school system due to resignations and retirements. Recent data collected by RPS showed 158 teacher vacancies and 49 support staff vacancies.

The schools with the highest vacancies, as detailed by RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras to the board, include Henry L. Marsh III Elementary School, which had six teacher vacancies according to his data, Woodville Elementary, eight vacancies; George W. Carver Elementary, 11 vacancies; Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, eight; Thomas C. Boushall Middle, six; Thomas H. Henderson Middle, 11, and River City Middle, 16 vacancies.

While he acknowledged the shortages and their potential effect, Mr. Kamras stressed that the numbers available were slightly out of date, and didn’t reflect the recent work done to address this issue.

“Hires are continuing to be made, and so these numbers continue to come down,” Mr. Kamras said. “We are moving on a lot of different fronts to continue to close out these vacancies.” This effort has included the signing bonuses, a physical and digital advertising campaign, and further investment in a HBCU residency program with Virginia Union University and Virginia Union University, the Richmond Teacher Residency (RTR) and the RPS Build Our

Own Teachers (BOOT) Program. According to the data Mr. Kamras presented, advertising has led to 82 new hires, the HBCU residency will add seven elementary teachers and four special education teachers, and 64 teachers, through RPS BOOT and RTR, will be ready ahead of the 2023 and 2024 school year. Board members still had concerns.

A major point of worry was the impact teacher retention issues have on some of the middle schools, where vacancies are most significant, particularly at smaller schools such as Henderson, which initially had 15 vacancies.

Concerns also were raised about ensuring teachers would be commit to working at the schools in the long term, and not potentially quit shortly after getting their bonus, as well as the need for greater investigation into these retention issues.

“When there are 15 positions that are vacant, our students are suffering and academics suffer,” said 3rd District Representative Kenya Gibson, who suggested exit interviews and evaluations could be employed to tackle this issue. “There’s a core problem in the schools that is leading to staff leaving, and a pretty ad is simply not addressing it.”

“We have to figure out how to stop the leak.”

Mr. Kamras agreed with her suggestions, and pointed to leadership changes in the works at some of the high-need schools as a meaningful step in that process.

Virtual hiring events for high-need schools began last week, with more planned for Wednedsay, June 14, Thursday, June 15 and throughout the rest of the summer. Additional information, including online job application, can be found at