Getting full-time bilingual teachers in the Rochester City School District has been a challenge. This as the district tries to educate all of the students who came here from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.   

 “They’re being paid very low and they don’t have benefits. Many of these folks are professionals who would probably leave for better-paying jobs because they are talented and bilingual,” said Eammon Scanlon, Education Policy Analyst with The Children’s Agenda. 

Scanlon is talking about the 64 bilingual staff that are serving as long-term substitutes who still needs to get their teacher certification. They’re helping teach the more than four thousand Spanish speaking students across RCSD. 

“One focus we have this year is, do we have a plan in place, funding and a plan in place to support those teachers so they can stay,” said Scanlon.

According to TCA, since the influx of Puerto Rican student enrollment, RCSD has developed bilingual programs to help students acclimate in Rochester and get up to speed with their studies. But moving forward he says there’s a need for a more permanent comprehensive plan. Especially when bilingual students enter high school. 

“Students coming from Puerto Rico end up dropping up in high school because they just don’t feel they have a path to graduation. They’re not getting enough intensive support and intensive teaching.”
There are talks of a possible partnership with SUNY Brockport for those bilingual substitutes seeking to receive the certification. Meanwhile, the Rochester Teacher Association says they’re also on board to help these bilingual educators any way they can. 

“If the district decided, to provide incentives for even more bilingual to come from other parts of the country to teach here in Rochester,” said Adam Urbanski, President of the Rochester Teacher Association.  “We’re in conversations with the district about such incentives that would make us more competitive in attracting the teachers that we need.”

Rochester city schools have seen an increase of nearly 1,000 Spanish speaking students in the past three years.