Four teachers but no students

9/28/2023, 6 p.m.
Four Richmond Public Schools teachers have been assigned to teach in empty classrooms at the Richmond Technical Center, the school ...

Four Richmond Public Schools teachers have been assigned to teach in empty classrooms at the Richmond Technical Center, the school system has confirmed.

At a time when dozens of substitutes are filling teacher vacancies in other schools, the situation at the Technical Center evidences an educational experiment gone awry.

During the 2022 budget session, the School Board approved $1.5 million to pay for up to 20 academic teachers to be assigned to the Technical Center for the first time, despite a lack of enthusiasm from Superintendent Jason Kamras and his administration.

The purpose: To allow a portion of the students who are bused from home high schools to the North Side career and vocational training site to stay on campus rather than having to take the long bus trip back to regular classes after completing their Technical Center program.

As the Free Press reported that year, only a handful of students were ever assigned to classes, leaving most of the teachers with little to do. That was a disappointment for Jonathan Young, the 4th District School Board member who had pushed the idea.

RPS claimed last fall in the Free Press report on the relatively empty classrooms that more students would take academic courses during the second semester, but the Free Press has been told no change actually occurred.

Mr. Young hoped then that this school year would be different. Instead, fewer academic teachers were assigned to the center’s campus, and no students were assigned to their classes, according to RPS spokeswoman Tamika Massie.

She did not respond to a Free Press request for an explanation as to why the four teachers have no students. It is not clear whether students taking center programs, themselves, were interested in taking regular courses at the center.

Mr. Young called it “disheartening for the School Board to invest precious resources and then to learn no effort was made to carry out the program.”

He said he believes that counselors at high schools either were not informed or did not provide students with sufficient information and direction about the opportunity to take regular classes at the Technical Center.

“There is a recurring complaint about information sharing,” he said. “In my view, this situation has resulted from students not being adequately told about it.”

The result, he said, is that the administration appears to be doing too little “to honor the spirit of the policy that the School Board adopted in its budget.”

Meanwhile, in Superintendent Kamras’ recent newsletter in which he always shares upbeat messages, his “Teach With Love at RPS” initiative announces that the system is hiring all year long.

“So if you know of a great teacher who might like to join the RPS team, please tell them to apply now. We’re offering bonuses of up to $12,000!”

We’ll be watching to see how many teachers RPS lures with such an attractive offer. And we’ll be even more interested in learning how many students fill their classrooms.