HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) – School districts across the country are facing staffing shortages.
In an effort to help fill open positions in Hartford’s public schools, the district is recruiting teachers from Puerto Rico.
Talks are taking place on the island this week.
As we enter the third year of the pandemic, schools in Hartford are operating at 75% of usual enrollment.
“It’s not sustainable how we serve our students,” said Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, superintendent of Hartford Public Schools.
Torres-Rodriguez says special education, bilingual education, and speech and language are among the areas most in need.
“Everyone is on deck. Our talent team is trying to figure out how to mitigate the vacancies we currently have,” she said.
In an effort to seek more bilingual teachers, Hartford Public Schools is recruiting teachers from Puerto Rico to fill vacancies for the upcoming school year.
The program is called “Paso a Paso”, which means “step by step” in Spanish.
“Essentially, it’s about ensuring that we provide a bilingual, bilingual and bicultural approach to recruitment,” Torres-Rodriguez said.
The city of Hartford has strong ties to Puerto Rico and 55% of Hartford public school students are Hispanic/Latino.
A pilot version of the program was launched just before the pandemic hit.
“One of the main issues we’re looking at is that the responsibilities of the educator have become much more important over the past few years,” said Corey Moses, first vice president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers.
The Hartford Federation of Teachers expresses concern about current staffing levels.
The union says retention is key.
“If there are not adequate staff, students do not benefit from the full range of their educational programs and what happens for staff in schools is that they have to fill these gaps and therefore this stretches our staff a lot more, which leads to burnout,” said Carol Gale, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers.
Teachers hired under the step-by-step program receive a relocation allowance and other benefits.
The superintendent and some district personnel are leaving for Puerto Rico on Wednesday.
The hope is to be able to hire 15 full-time teachers.
If there are more qualified applicants, they have the funding in place to potentially hire more teachers.
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