Florida school districts facing teacher shortage

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It’s a good time to be a teacher if you’re looking for work in Florida.

  • Many Florida counties have hundreds of teaching vacancies to fill
  • Sarasota County faces shortage due to DROP retirement program
  • Pasco County started early recruiting for positions in February

Statewide there is a teacher shortage, and districts are now trying to fill those openings before the new school year.

“There is a teacher shortage statewide in Florida caused by people entering our DROP program, or retirement program,” said Roy Sprinkle, Director of Human Resources with the Sarasota County School District.  “They’re all kind of bubbling right now and leaving us at once, which is causing a high need for teachers in all of our systems statewide.”

Five years ago, a number of teachers signed up for the retirement program because there were changes being made to it.

Sarasota Middle School Art Teacher, Elaine Gale is one of those teachers that made the decision to call it quits.

She is leaving a career in education after 40 years.

“It means that I have to retire,” said Gale.  “The fifth year of DROP, when you participate in it, you have to retire.”

Sarasota County is looking to fill around 250 teaching jobs for the 2016-2017 school year.

Meanwhile, nearby Hillsborough plans on hiring around 800 new teachers, while Polk County has around 60 positions to fill.

Pasco County was expecting to fill 300 to 400 jobs for the new year, but that number dropped to 185, thanks to early recruiting.

“We started our strategy back in February for filling our positions,” said Lori Perreault, Human Capital Partner, with the Pasco County School District.  “We looked and made sure what positions we were going to have open so that way we could start filling them early.”

To find new teachers, Pasco and Sarasota both report they are looking out of state in hopes of filling the slots.

“We not only recruit at all of the universities statewide, we go outside the state,” said Sprinkle.  “Probably our biggest state is Pennsylvania.  We get more teachers there from anywhere else because they have very few jobs and lots of teaching colleges.  We’ll also go to Illinois, Tennessee, and we do very well in the mid-west, especially after a bad winter.  We’re trying to get the best people from around country to come back to Sarasota County.”

Despite all of the openings in Sarasota County, district officials said they don’t think they’ll have a hard time filling them.

“Luckily we have a place where people want to live,” said Sprinkle.  “We have the highest academic standards, and we have the highest average salaries in the state of Florida, thanks to our referendum.”

Sarasota County has one of the highest teacher starting salaries among public school districts in Florida. Most teachers start out around $ 41,000 (more if teachers have experience and/or higher degrees).

Sprinkle said this is due in large part to community support for public education through an additional property tax to support local schools, which voters have approved four times, every four years since 2002.  

Sprinkle said the last time they had this many openings was when the state changed the number of students per ratio for the class size amendment and they had to hire more teachers.

Bay News 9 – local-news

April 30, 2016 |
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