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School districts still in need of new hires

School districts have been offering hiring bonuses and holding job fairs to get ahead of this problem, but the clock is ticking.

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — As the number of days to the start of the school year decreases the need to fill vacant positions is increasing.

With countless job postings in districts across Western New York, for teachers, bus aides, and everything in between, school leaders say hiring remains a challenge but they’re optimistic.

Hiring troubles persist across multiple industries post-pandemic so it’s important to keep in mind that schools aren’t alone. 2 On Your Side spoke with President of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association Michael Cornell on Friday to get a sense of the situation.

What prompted our inquiry was the Rochester City School District announcing as of last week that it had over 300 teacher vacancies, which could impact the start of their school year.

While Buffalo Public Schools could not provide us info late Friday night, we found around 100 instructional job openings on the district's website. It’s unclear if those positions are all required so 2 On Your Side plans to follow up with district leadership.

When asked if Western New York school districts could face the same fate as Rochester, Cornell said he doesn’t believe so.

“I don't anticipate any of our school districts in WNY having to rethink the way they are going to open programmatically because of a lack of teachers. There may be some adjustments along the way, but I think that largely our school districts are going to be fully staffed and ready to go,” Cornell said.

Various but not all school districts have been offering hiring bonuses and holding job fairs to get ahead of this problem. However, with the U.S. workforce participation rate hovering around 62% as opposed to 63.4% prior to the pandemic, Cornell said finding enough candidates, let alone qualified/eligible ones is still proving a challenge.

Workforce participation dropped to 60.2% in April 2020 and has been slowly recovering ever since.

Cornell added that when the pandemic hit New York was also in the midst of its own recovery after losing countless teachers during the Cuomo administration, which he said "vilified" teachers.

Present day, Cornell said speaking with various superintendents he has heard some specific needs, although this is nowhere near a complete list.

“I know the Lakeshore Central School District is looking for social workers I think they have 3 positions posted, I know Orchard Park is short maybe 15 to 20 bus drivers, Grand Island is also looking for bus drivers,” he said.

Cornell is optimistic for the future of education however and said that based on conversations he’s had with some partners in higher education, enrollment in teacher preparation whether a five-year degree or other certification is reportedly increasing.

So, over the next couple of years, Cornell is hopeful that New York's teacher recovery will get back on track.

“The fact of the matter is some of the best work happening in any community is the work that happens in that communities schools."

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