The New Haven Public Schools district has 95 open teaching positions with a month and half to go until the start of the new school year.
Judy Pena’s two children are entering the eighth and fifth grades at the L.W. Beecher Museum Magnet School.
“Love their staff,” Pena told NBC Connecticut. “They do very well with the kids.”
But Pena said she is concerned about the teacher-to-student ratio in the classroom.
“I volunteer a lot in school and I see the teachers being so stressed because being so understaffed in all grades,” she said.
With the district understaffed and trying to fill 95 teaching vacancies, Mayor Toni Harp (D) said there is an ongoing effort to hire graduates from local colleges like Southern Connecticut State University and Quinnipiac University.
“To have us approaching the middle of July and having this number of vacancies hanging out there, it’s definitely a problem for us,” New Haven Federation of Teachers President David Cicarella said.
While some of the open teaching positions are for core subjects like math and science, the district is also trying to hire more bi-lingual teachers. Pena said she sees that as a need with the growing number of students who are learning English as a second language.
“They just don’t have that extra help, they don’t have anyone,” Pena said, “they’re looking for parents to try to translate, parents to parents, instead of staff.”
A recent recruitment trip to Puerto Rico for Spanish-speaking teachers and a partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities are two ways the district is trying to attract new talent, while diversifying the teaching staff.
“Yes we’d like to have minority teachers,” said Mayor Harp, who also serves on the Board of Education. “But we’d also want to have teachers whoever they are that are sensitive to the cultures of our students.”
“They’ve really been more creative,” Cicarella said, “more aggressive trying to fill positions.”
But the lack of a state budget in mid-July only makes the hiring process more difficult for one of the state’s largest public school districts, Cicarella said.
“They’re faced with making choices of priority,” he said, “but they can’t even make those choices because they’re not sure how much they’re getting.”
Mayor Harp will need to appoint a new Board of Education member after Daisy Gonzalez suddenly passed away last week. Harp told NBC Connecticut she is looking for someone with children in the school district to represent the needs of parents.