Rockford schools face ‘painful’ educator shortage

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) – Paraprofessionals help students to develop academically, emotionally and socially, but some Rockford students are missing out on that one-on-one help due to a lack of educators to fill those roles.

RPS #205 is now taking steps to find, and keep, qualified paraprofessionals on the payroll.

Matt Zediker, the Chief Human Resources Officer for RPS #205, has worked for the district for almost 20 years, and he said that he has never seen a shortage like this before.

“By and large since I’ve been in education, this is the largest number of vacancies, or the biggest discrepancy that I’ve been aware of,” Zediker said. “We’ve got a number of groups that all have some shortages. Paraprofessional is acutely painful, as we have doubled the vacancies we typically have for that group. We’re probably short around 120 paraprofessionals right now. We hover somewhere, if we were fully staffed, somewhere in the 500 range.”

Paraprofessionals provide vital support in a classroom. The district is now taking some extra steps to fill those spots, as well as keep the ones they have right now.

“You could work individually with a one-on-one student, both for academic and social and emotional skills, or you could be in a classroom supporting a couple of students that need some added instruction or support,” Zediker said. “On the agenda tonight are a couple of different things for paraprofessionals. Number one, a hiring incentive, so on the board we have a $3,000 hiring bonus sign on bonus. So, if there was paraprofessional that was with us last year and stays with us the whole year this year, they would receive a retention bonus at the end of the year, and we’ve also instituted perfect attendance bonuses,”

The district hopes that this will entice people to apply.

“So, that’s why we’re moving in the same direction for paraprofessionals and our nutrition service workers,” Zediker said. “So, we think that’s a competitive offer for people to join us.”

The school district is still hiring bus drivers, as well as nutrition service workers.

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