SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – It’s hard to believe summer is halfway over and kids will be hopping on the bus back to school in no time.

Before then, the Syracuse City School District needs to fill about 230 open positions by fall, many of which are in the classroom.

SCSD’s director of recruitment, Scott Persampieri, has been spending his days trying to fill hundreds of teaching positions.

“We started the summer with around 300 teaching vacancies and we are sitting at right around 230 or 220 vacancies at this moment.”

SCOTT PERSAMPIERI, DIRECTOR OF RECRUITMENT, SYRACUSE CITY SCHOOLS

The district is using incentives to attract qualified candidates to work for Syracuse schools.

In the district’s recent board of education meeting, teachers who sign on that specialize in math or special education or a school nurse or sentry will receive a $3,250 stipend. Pay for substitute teachers has also been bumped up.

“This shortage of staff that we’re facing is not going to go away when COVID goes away, and it’s not going to go away next year, so it’s going to be a long-term strategy for us,” Persampieri said.

But why are there more teaching positions open than normal? Persampieri said it has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also is a result of the number of people retiring.

The baby boomers in the education field have already started to retire and Persampieri only expects that trend to continue for the next 5 to 10 years.

Speaking of retirees, SCSD is reaching out to teachers who’ve recently retired in the last few years to see if they would come back for the year and teach.

The incentive for those folks is that New York State lifted the cap for retirees who make a pension. In previous years, that cap was $35,000, but this year, there is none.

“The pool of certified teachers to hire from has drastically dried up. They are not coming out of our higher education institutions certified. They are not going into the profession certified; therefore, we don’t have them to hire.”

NICOLE CAPSELLO, PRESIDENT, SYRACUSE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION

Capsello also believes the recent gun violence in schools and among our youth drives potential educators away, only adding to the ongoing staffing crisis.

Hiring for this many positions is certainly a daunting task, but Persampieri is hopeful.

“I think we’ll be fine by the time we hit the end of August,” he said. “We are going to need every single day this summer to get to a place where we’ve got a qualified person in every classroom, but I am pretty confident we will get there.”

The Syracuse City School District also offers teaching programs through Syracuse University, SUNY Oswego, Le Moyne College, NYU, and a pilot program through SUNY Cortland.

The district also has an Urban Fellowship program with the hope of attracting and retaining young educators while making the certification process easier for folks.