Teach Rochester recruitment effort reaches next stage

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The Rochester City School District’s effort to recruit and retain teachers has entered its next phase. It follows the news of RCSD’s roughly 3 percent job vacancy rate for operations and instructional staff. 

Teach Rochester, which launched in January, is a multifaceted initiative that aims to make the teaching profession more attractive and supportive within the city of Rochester and to create a more diverse teaching workforce that reflects the students of the district. 

“Though collaboration with community organizations, educational institutions, and stakeholders, Teach Rochester seeks to elevate the status of teaching in Rochester, improve teacher readiness for day one and overall, and to ensure equitable access for our students to educators who are fully certified,” Christopher Miller, RCSD chief of human capital, said at a meeting last week.

“We started in January by calling on our own staff for volunteers who have connections they can leverage. Here in March, we are focused on a community call to action,” he continued. “We want to work with our community for them to come forward and share with us the richness they might offer to help us with this work.”

More specifically, the Recruitment Ambassador program seeks community members who can leverage their expertise and networks to help with recruitment and retention. Miller says alumni, individuals connected to historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic institutions will be very important for building a talented and diverse workforce.

He also mentioned a host of other support categories Recruitment Ambassadors can help with including alumni donations, institution contacts, referrals, mentoring, testimonials, recruitment events, social media advocacy, professional development support, and feedback.

Other Teach Rochester efforts focused on recruitment include establishing new and strengthening existing teacher pipelines to the district. Since 2022, RCSD has established relationships with local higher education institutions, including the University of Rochester, SUNY Brockport, Nazareth University, St. John Fisher University and Roberts Wesleyan University, as well as institutions outside the area such as New York University and Grand Canyon University.

These pipelines are multifocus; the goals include students achieving a bachelor’s or master’s degree, initial certification or additional certification, bilingual/TESOL extension, paraprofessional and teaching assistant status, or career and technical education certification.

In addition, strengthening mentoring programs is also a part of Teach Rochester’s plan for new instructors. Through a partnership with the Rochester Teachers Association, new hires are paired with established teachers for mentorship.

“They provide support through meetings or phone calls, but they also evaluate, provide feedback and they coach as a thought partner with our new teachers,” Miller said. “That program is one of the great things we do and is really a model for across the nation, one that’s been in existence for many years.”

Other parts of the Teach Rochester strategy are more retention-specific with the establishment of affinity groups among RCSD teachers. These groups, used in other school districts around the country, are employee-led spaces that link individuals with shared identities, backgrounds or interests. This offers a platform for teachers to carry out professional development, provide mutual support, and create open dialogue.

Miller says affinity groups that have already been proposed include Women/BIPOC leaders, Black Educators in Leadership, PRIDE Alliance/Black Queer Educators, and Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. More are expected to be added in the coming months.

This phase of Teach Rochester comes with the news that RCSD has been operating with a gap of 193.71 full-time equivalency hours for both operations and instructional staff. That number translates to about a 3 percent job vacancy rate.

The largest gaps, defined as a critical shortage, include special education, English as a Second Language, and math and science teachers.

Board of Education Commissioner Amy Maloy noted this as particularly worrying given the tendency for more vulnerable student groups to drop out. English language learners and students with disabilities in the current senior class had dropout rates of 19.9 percent and 12.9 percent, respectively.

Miller said the job vacancy rate of 3 percent is considered average when compared to districts of similar size.

“I appreciate that you acknowledged that this (vacancy rate) is standard for an organization of our size, but these are critical positions. When we’re talking about children’s education, I just can’t look at that as standard,” said Commissioner Camille Simmons. “So, I’m interested to see some of the strategies and plans spelled out more explicitly.”

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and data journalist. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

2 thoughts on “Teach Rochester recruitment effort reaches next stage

  1. Until you change the system you will not change the outcome, period. Doing the same thing over and over with more teachers will result in the same educational failure that has existed for decades. The method, the system, the mission has to change. Should the RCSD once again take over East High School the grades will once again drop. When are the educational experts going to realize this and make the appropriate adjustments? All those urban kids, everyone of them has an innate skill or gift. Teach toward allowing them to discover those innate skills/gifts. Show them the many opportunities that exist. Implement a comprehensive vocational school. The system is going to have to become creative, it needs to provide a “that’s cool” educational journey, use some ingenuity. Kids that drop out are academically bored. Education needs to be fun, have a goal and the kids should be able to visualize post nigh school success. Pairing the new teachers with the current staff will only guarantee that the system will stay as is. A failing one.

    • Agreed. I am a RCSD teacher. Its all a waste, all of it, everything unless the system itself is restructured completely.

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