PATERSON — With classes scheduled to start in two weeks, the city school district has 122 vacant teaching positions, part of a nationwide staffing shortage.
Another 46 Paterson educators have given notice that they will retire or resign in the next two months, officials said.
The number of open teaching jobs in Paterson has increased by more than 50% compared to last year. At this time in 2021, Paterson schools had 74 vacant teaching positions with 27 others pending.
“The teacher shortage is a national crisis, but that doesn’t make it any less distressing,” said Rosie Grant, executive director of the Paterson Education Fund advocacy group. “Our classrooms are already overcrowded because of facility constraints. The teacher vacancies add another layer of barriers to student success.”
District officials said the highest numbers of openings are in special education and English as a second language instruction.
Superintendent Eileen Shafer said the district already has made progress by hiring 72 teachers since the end of June, when the total number of vacancies was 240. Shafer attributed the 72 hires to aggressive recruiting by the district’s Human Resources Department, with five teacher job fairs since June 22.
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“It’s no secret that districts all over the country are facing a teacher shortage,” Shafer said in praising human resources staff members. “But their intrepid efforts have helped reduce the shortage’s impact on Paterson Public Schools, and those efforts will continue throughout the school year.”
John McEntee Jr., president of the Paterson teachers’ union, attributed the district’s high number of openings to the salaries given to city educators. He said Paterson’s starting pay for teachers is about $57,500. Newark recently increased its starting pay by $7,000, putting it at $62,000.
“Anytime you have a single vacant teaching job covered by a per-diem sub, the students will suffer,” McEntee said. “Then you multiply that one by 168 at 25 kids in a class, you can see how many students suffer.”
School board President Kenneth Simmons said Paterson’s vacancy numbers are high because the district is so large. The district has more than 2,000 teaching slots. Simmons said he heard that Jersey City has about 200 vacancies.
“Given what’s happening all over, this is about what we expected,” Simmons said.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press.
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