Roanoke City Schools working to recruit, retain more teachers

The board met with City Council Monday to discuss the ongoing teacher shortage.

ROANOKE, Va. – As students and teachers get ready to head back to school, one local school board is brainstorming how to keep more teachers in the system.

During Monday's joint session of Roanoke City Council and the Roanoke City School Board, members discussed the difficulties of hiring teachers and what they are doing to combat the problem.

Back in 2013, Roanoke City Public Schools had nearly 800 applicants for jobs. This year, the school system only received about 500.

Recruiting and retaining qualified teachers is an issue nationwide. Roanoke city public schools is feeling the strain here at home.

"The teacher education institutions are not getting people who wish to go into teaching, so that's just a huge problem for us. We don't have a good pool right out of college," said Rita Bishop, superintendent of Roanoke City Public Schools. 

In the last year, Roanoke city has doubled down on efforts to keep classrooms staffed. In 2016, the board approved a pay raise for long-term teachers. Now the focus is on recruitment, giving out-of-town teachers a reason to relocate.

"What we're working to do is to identify the value proposition that Roanoke City Public Schools provide and include in that, the community and all the benefits of living in the area," said Lutheria Smith, a school board member. 

Smith says the board is also looking at more out-of-the-box solutions like student loan paybacks as an incentive for teachers to stay longer. As the school year looms, Roanoke City only has a couple of positions left to fill, but in the education world, those numbers are fluid so the board is doing its best to be prepared.

"We're going to keep being as aggressive as we can possibly be, keep the salaries up, and we're just going to recruit everywhere," said Bishop. 

During Monday's meeting, detailed plans were released for the new Fallon Park Elementary. Construction should begin in January and take two years to complete. The new Fallon Park will feature 39 classrooms, a new cafeteria and an updated gym.