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How WNY schools are dealing with staffing shortages

Hamburg Central Schools Superintendent Michael Cornell shared his thoughts with 2 On Your Side.

HAMBURG, N.Y. — Many industries are experiencing staffing shortages, including education and support services needed in schools.

Our coverage of the teacher shortage in New York State goes back to before the pandemic, and now the need is more far-reaching from classroom teachers, to bus drivers, to bus aides.

"Region-wide, what would you say is the biggest issue you're dealing with right now?" asked 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik.

"So, I think it's hard to generalize, right, because every district has its own context, has its own needs. But I think in general, in areas where we compete with labor in other industries, or for labor in other industries, so people who drive, people who clean, people who build, people who do clerical work, you know, we're competing with every other industry in Western New York for people to do that work," Superintendent Michael Cornell said.

With the civilian labor force participation rate still below pre-pandemic levels, Cornell says the competition for talent is tough.

Cornell leads Hamburg Central Schools and is also the President of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association.

"The City of Buffalo, all of the suburban, and the outlying school districts, they all have the unique needs and their unique challenges, and they're working really closely with their teams, with their boards of education, to try to solve them, and if there is one thing that we've learned over the course of the last at least three years, is that we in schools have gotten pretty good at solving unique and complex problems," Cornell said.

Cornell adds it might require a little more patience at the start of the school year as districts meet their staffing needs. 

To help alleviate the problem, Cornell says local colleges and universities are doing a good job of marketing their programs to young people deciding what career path to follow and that many educators have inspired students to join the profession, as well.

"How does all of this impact learning in the classroom? Because I know classroom size is something that people going into education look at and you don't want to see it go past a certain point because you want to make sure kids get the attention they need," Dudzik asked.

"I think it's our job as school leaders, as boards of education, to make sure that it doesn't impact the learning of kids," Cornell said.

"I think generally speaking, we've been able to find the people. We're turning over a lot more rocks today than maybe we did, you know, ten years ago, but I think that what parents are going to find, and what kids are going to find, come September are fully-staffed schools with amazing people ready to do the work that kids need us to do for them."

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