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Hillsborough County school leaders to tackle teacher shortage with new recruitment, retention plan

Posted at 8:14 AM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 02:21:14-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County school leaders plan to address the teacher shortage hitting the district, one of several topics they will discuss at their meeting, on Tuesday.

The Hillsborough County School District’s Superintendent, Jeff Eakins put together a $17 million plan to enhance teacher recruitment and retention.

According to the district, the objectives of this plan are as follows:

  • Improve the high school graduation rate.
  • Provide a student-centered learning environment that engages every child.
  • Recruit, support, and retain a highly effective and diverse workforce.
  • Develop, recognize, and reward employees.
  • Develop a culture of respect, trust, and collaboration.
  • Engage and communicate with families and stakeholders.
  • Continuously improve processes and systems.

The Hillsborough County school board is voting on an initiative that would pay Title One teachers up to $13,000 more a year.

Julie Black teaches fourth grade at Forest Hills elementary, Title I - Tier III school, one of the highest needs schools in Hillsborough County.

"Some of the students come here with certain deficits so its a challenge in order to get them where they need to be by the end of the school year," said Black

That’s why Hillsborough County superintendent Jeff Eakins is proposing a way to help the top 50 Title One schools in the county.

"There is no greater need to have a great teacher in front of our students more than at our highest needs schools," said Eakins.

The “spark” incentive would pay teachers up to $13,000 more a year on top of their salary, based on what tier (I, II, or III) the school is. It would also provide free or reduced childcare for teachers.

"For the highly effective teachers that are out there at other schools, it's a huge incentive to get them over here because it's a huge raise in the salary.

This initiative would take $17 million - reserved for title one improvements - and put it directly in the pockets of teachers.

"I’m very excited to be rewarded for the challenges we have here," said Black.

Right now there are 200 teaching positions open in Hillsborough county mostly at title one schools. With this initiative, the district says their goal is to get those positions filled before the end of this school year.

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In January, the ABC Action News iTeam uncovered the state has a major back-log of teacher applications. The state claims a new system went into effect in 2017 and this increases the wait times for people to get certificates.

Right now, Hillsborough County schools are relying on temporary teachers to cope with the shortage. During a stop in Tampa, Florida’s newly appointed education commissioner said he is hiring more staff to help process the applications.

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The district also voted against arming teachers in the meeting.