After years of struggling to hire enough teachers and support staff, the San Francisco Unified School District appears to be inching away from its vacancy crisis.
As of August 6, the district reported a total of 80 certificated vacancies, which included 45 open classroom positions and 35 open non-classroom positions, compared to 61 open classroom and 59 open non-classroom positions reported at the same time last year, according to a district spokesperson Laura Dudnick. In all, the district reported that a total of 765 positions were filled for the upcoming school year, up 7 percent from last year.
As of August 14, only 23 classroom teaching positions were vacant, said Dudnick, and more hires were being made as the first day of school approached on Monday.
“Our goal is 100 percent and as of yesterday I was told were at 98.6 percent,” School Board President Hydra Mendoza-McDonell said about the district’s vacancy rate on Friday. “I’m confident we will hit our mark and students will be greeted by their teacher this year and not a sub.”
The San Francisco Examiner reported previously that the district started the 2017-2018 school year with five classroom vacancies on the first day of instruction, or Aug. 21, 2017.
Following an educator hiring and retention crisis that saw as many as 38 vacant position on the first day of school in 2016, the district has made strides as programs meant to facilitate the credentialing process and offer prospective teachers incentives for joining SFUSD are showing success.
SFUSD’s Pathway to Teaching Program, the first district-sponsored teacher credentialing program, is now in its second year. According to Dudnick, more than 90 percent of the program’s first cohort of teachers passed in the 2017-2018 school year and “are continuing to teach with SFUSD in the 2018-2019 school year.”
This school year, “we have accepted 94 Pathway to Teaching candidates who are applying for jobs in Bilingual-Spanish, Multiple Subjects, and Special Education positions across the district,” she said.
“I think teachers also want to be in SFUSD. We have been innovative and courageous and have worked hard to do more for our teachers,” said Mendoza-McDonell.
Still, The City’s cost of living and affordability crisis remain among the greatest recruitment and retention challenges facing the district, said Dudnick.
The district is banking on a voter approved parcel tax that will provide more revenue for teacher salaries and a 16 percent pay hike this year for educators negotiated between the district and its union, United Educators of San Francisco, to help fill its remaining vacancies.