ROCHESTER, NY — For months, News10NBC has been reporting on the teacher shortage being felt across New York State.
Many districts across our region have plenty of openings and there just aren’t enough new teachers in the pipeline to fill them. That’s why recent retirees are surprised to find out that their permanent teaching certificates are becoming inactive.
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Diane DiGiacomandrea was a teacher at Victor Primary School for more than two decades. Her favorite part of the job, “actually watching the kids grow and learn and become independent little people who think for themselves and who become comfortable with you and become your family,” she tells News10NBC.
DiGiacomandrea decided to retire at the end of 2020, “when I originally planned on retiring, I planned on going back and doing consulting work, we had an entire plan together on what I would do to go in and continue to support the schools,” she says but the combination of health concerns and COVID delayed those plans. Still, Mrs. D as she’s affectionately referred to by her students didn’t worry, “both of my certifications are permanent certifications,” she says so she figured she could return at any time.
But then she and some other retirees she knows pulled letters out of their mailboxes that caught them by surprise, “we got this notification that all the sudden a permanent certification was now no longer permanent and we were going to be canceled and there were several of us,” she says.
The letter was from the NYS Department of Education and says DiGiacomandrea should only renew her certification if she’s planning to work at least 90 days at the same school in the same school year, “if you do not plan to participate or practice, if you’ re retired for example you can just ignore this notice, ” DiGiacomandrea says, “but then what happens if I want to get back in?”
A spokesperson for the NYSED tells News10NBC that permanent teaching certificates are valid for life. The Department does not “cancel” them but NYS Education Law was amended beginning with the 2016-17 school year and now requires teachers who hold permanent certificates and who are practicing in New York State register with NYSED every five years.
If a teacher who holds a permanent certificate is not practicing in New York State due to retirement or any other reason, NYSED directs them to change their registration status to “inactive” in the TEACH system. When a teachers’ registration period expires, they are not required to re-register if they do not plan to practice in an applicable school in the future. If they practice in an applicable school in the future, they should re-register and select the “active” status. There is no time limit on being in inactive status.
DiGiacomandrea will switch to inactive for now as she continues conversations with school districts about how she and her fellow retirees may be able to continue to support schools and students, “when we talk about purpose, I’m talking about people with multiple degrees and years and years and years of service and they are truly experts and then when I watch and see we have so many holes in our schools on a daily basis, it made me start to consider what could we do, how could we help that,” she wonders.