New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | June 27, 2022

School districts dealing with staffing issues, plan to address student dress code

By Andre Jones | June 22, 2022 12:00 am

Two different school divisions. Two different scenarios. Two different set of circumstances. Same goals in mind.

New Kent County Public Schools and Charles City County Public Schools are dealing with an issue that is plaguing essentially every school system in the United States; staffing and hiring employees.

With an estimated 12 percent of schoolteachers estimated to leave the field of education, school systems are scrambling to find employees to fill that void. Those issues did not forgo both of the local school districts.

In New Kent County, at least 32 teaching and administrative positions were vacant as of June 22. While the turnover numbers of teachers leaving the division due to retirement or not renewing their contract, one of the biggest factors for the number of vacancies is the opening of Quinton Elementary School this upcoming August.

New Kent Superintendent of Schools Brian Nichols has expressed in the past the hard work and goals he and his staff have focused on in keeping the schools staffed.

“This year has been by far the hardest year we have ever endured,” Nichols said. “We know that our teachers, staff, and faculty have done so much for our students, and we can’t thank them regardless.”

But the superintendent also expressed that the combination of keeping up other districts on the salary scale along with a thin pool of candidates is causing a lot of headaches when it comes to employment.

“Every school district is essentially pulling form the same pool of candidates,” Nichols commented. “When you have so few candidates who can choose where to go, along with the field of education not being a field of choice, we have to find ways to be creative to attract those candidates.

“At the same time, we have to make sure those who currently work for us continue to do so,” he added. “We put as much effort in retention as we do in looking for new employees. Those people who work for New Kent schools are special and we are doing what we can to make sure they feel justified to remain here.”

In Charles City County, currently 18 positions in teaching and administration were listed. While some positions have been filled, 15 teachers are leaving the school system this summer.

Charles City Superintendent of Schools Dalphine Joppy made a recommendation at a June 15 special call meeting to provide retention bonuses of $500 for full-time employees and $250 for part-time employees, which was approved by the school board. But the uphill battle to keep workers inside of county schools continue to tough, as school leaders found out at the June 21 regular board meeting.

“It’s a shame that those who are loyal and been here everyday doing these jobs did not receive a bonus,” commented Christina Marr, referencing how long-term substitutes could not receive the bonus. “We have been there doing those things and to hear that we wouldn’t receive that really upset me.”

Joppy said that they are currently working to compensate substitute teachers through negotiations with ESS. But Marr added one additional comment.

“Those who are loyal stay here, but those who leave are leaving because they can receive $10,000 or more elsewhere,” she concluded.

Joppy acknowledged the comments, advising the school board both at past meetings and the June 21 meeting the path that lies ahead.

“We have to find unique ways to attract teachers into our school district,” she told school board members at a previous meeting. “One of those ways include focusing on our strengths.”

One of the positives Joppy expressed in working for the school system was the student-to-teacher ratio. But she knows that the recruiting efforts must continue.

“We are battling against school districts around us who can currently offer more money, so we have to find a way to incentivize our staff that is here and I’m hopeful these bonuses will at least allow them to see we are making an effort,” she commented.

Meanwhile, both districts are honing into fixing perceived problems in the school systems. Both schools acknowledged that more communication is needed with the community. But some of the main focuses that were needed to address include the dress code and portable communication devices, such as cell phones.

“We know kids are going with the trends, with holes in the pants being one of them,” Joe Ellis, who is working on revising the handbook at New Kent County Public Schools. “We also understand that the length of shorts is another one. It’s something that we are continuing to revise and get right because you can look at the average height of a young lady and most of their height is in their femur. Even something with a 12-inch inseam would still bring the bottom of the shorts higher than four inches above the knees.”

In Charles City, at-large member Preston Adkins said more discipline needs to be taken when it comes to the dress code.

“The parents sign the Code of Conduct, so they know what they can and cannot wear,” he commented. “If a student wears something that’s inappropriate, we need to call their parents. When it becomes an inconvenience to the parents to come get their kid, then they will get the message.”

Both school districts plan to review their code of conducts during the month of July once the new fiscal year begins.