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Local school districts work to fill vacancies as teacher shortage worsens

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Posted at 6:50 AM, Jun 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-10 07:47:11-04

TAMPA, Fla.  — “It’s always our hope and desire and our goal to be 100% filled on that day one,” said Paula Texel, Associate Superintendent of Human Resource Services for Pinellas County Schools.

School districts across Tampa Bay are racing against the clock to hire teachers in time for the next school year.

“It’s always a challenge to compete not only with my colleagues but also the neighboring school districts to find the highest quality teachers,” said Solomon Lowery, Principal at Osceola Middle School in Pinellas County.

A report from the board of education predicts 9,079 teacher vacancies statewide this summer.

Locally in Pinellas County, the district has about 200 openings.

“It is a very fluid number,” said Texel.

In Hillsborough County, they still need about 600 teachers.

“This is a lot. Especially during a time where we see so many fewer educators or individuals transition to education,” said Addison Davis, Superintendent of Hillsborough County Schools.

Leaders say this growing teacher shortage is directly affecting students.

“It impacts us tremendously. We have 8,000 students in Hillsborough County that do not have a certified teacher in front of them,” said Davis.

“As many years as I’ve been doing this, I’m apprehensive right now but we know we’ve been putting out as many feelers as we can. We are reaching lots and lots of different people who are interested,” said Texel.

Districts plan to ramp up recruitment efforts, even utilizing technology and virtual interviews to get the job done.

Leaders will recruit until the first day of school and feel confident they can fill many positions.

“We will recruit and screen candidates until all vacancies are filled,” said Lowery.

If they don’t, they’ll have to use other employees to fill in, doing whatever it takes to make sure students have someone to teach them come August.

“We will take district staff who are certified and we also have school-based staff,” said Davis.

School districts all have one goal right now.

“To be able to recruit and retain a workforce,” said Davis.

However, leaders say that’s been a struggle.

“That’s just a sign of the times right now and lots of people making moves,” said Texel.

Teachers across the country have quit or retired early during the pandemic, worsening an already long-standing teacher shortage.

“It’s because of the complexities of education that we’re facing. No longer are we training individuals just to teach content. They have to deal with the mental health status of our students, they’re dealing with politics,” said Davis.

Education leaders say the shortage also has to do with salary.

The state’s starting salary goal is at least $47,000.

In Pinellas County, the starting salary is above that, at $48,675. The district is doing what it can to stay competitive.

In Hillsborough County, leaders are working to find ways to offer more money, like proposing a millage to offer better teacher salaries.

“We have got to do something differently to be able to properly incentivize our staff to keep them in front of our children and create stability,” said Davis.

Leaders say fixing this problem, and getting more teachers, is important for everyone.

“Education is a crucial resource to the infrastructure of our country,” said Lowery.