Summer School @ WPHS
Students at West Port High School have earned 430, half credits as of July 12, 2021, during two sessions of Summer School.
Doug Engle, Ocala Star-Banner
A mounting teacher shortage, even more than past years, means that about 150 classrooms will start the year with a substitute teacher, many of whom have four-year degrees, until the district can hire more educators.
Marion County is not alone. The shortage is being reported nationwide. A National Education Association study reports that 55% of teachers say they will likely leave the profession they love before retirement.
Among the reasons cited by teachers in the survey are burnout and lack of support from some parents who do not treat them with the respect they deserve. In Marion County, local officials say the reasons are vast.
2018-19: Calling all teachers! The district needs nearly 100
2016-17: 93 more teachers needed
2022-23: Tentative budget hits all-time high of $905M thanks to COVID relief funds
“First of all, not as many college students are majoring in education,” said Kevin Christian, the Marion County Public Schools spokesman. “Couple that with the fact that teaching in the classroom is more challenging today than it was decades ago and teachers don’t always get the respect that they deserve.”
In the end, “there’s just not as many people in the pool, and it shows,” he said. The school district employs about 3,000 teachers. In recent years, the shortage has been about 90 to 100 teachers at the beginning of the year.
“There’s so many options out there right now for those seeking employment,” Christian also noted. “It’s a competitive marketplace – more competitive now than I think I’ve ever seen it.”
Currently there are 200 openings, according to the official hiring website. However, there are 50 teachers who are in the pipeline and should be officially on the district rolls very soon. The number of openings varies day to day.
Christian said that the district opened the 2021-22 school year with a similar shortage of teachers. That number was 57 by the end of the school year.
There’s an employee shortage in about every department in the district
And it’s not just teachers. Christian said there are 90 or so openings for non-instructional positions, such as carpenters, clerks and custodians. Christian said in the past decade or more that the district has always had bus driver and substitute teacher shortages.
This year, the number of needed bus drivers is only 12, down from 35 just several months ago. Christian said the district’s recruiting efforts in the past year have helped to get more bus drivers onboard.
At a work session on Thursday, the Marion County School Board addressed the shortages after listening to the district administration about plans to find more teachers and other staff members.
Part of the plan for the past year was to hold many more targeted job fairs. “We have had a lot more hiring events in the past year than we have held in a long time,” Christian noted on Friday.
School board discusses recruitment of teachers and non-instruction workers
Thursday’s work session included a discussion about recruiting retired educators and all people who have earned a bachelor’s degree but may have not considered becoming a teacher. The starting salary is now $47,500.
In 2018, the Florida Department of Education expanded teaching opportunities for military veterans, allowing them to waive initial certification to become classroom teachers for grades kindergarten through high school.
Under the 2018 rules, teaching in grades six and above would require the veteran to have at least a master’s degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, limiting them from teaching those subjects.
But this spring, that changed. Under the new law. which took effect July 1, veterans don’t need to have a college degree at all. And they aren’t restricted to which subjects they may teach.
Veterans with at least four years of military service, who have been honorable or medically discharged, can teach as long as they have 60 college credits, with at least a 2.5 grade point average on the traditional 4-point scale.
They must also have a passing score on a Florida subject area exam for bachelor-level subjects and take a job in a Florida public school district, including a charter school. Marion district administrators say they are researching the new guidance.
District is looking to bring back retired educators who want a job
In the meantime, board Chairman Eric Cummings said Thursday that he is getting calls from retired educators who may be interested in returning to the classroom for a year or two now that the cost of living has risen due to inflation.
“I have been in contact with some retired educators who have, because of the climate of the country — economics, inflation, and different situations — have expressed an interest in returning to the classroom, and some of their certifications are still good,” he said.
The district is trying to recruit those retirees.
“Maybe they may not commit for five years, but if they could commit for a year or two years to the district that will be beneficial to us,” he noted.
Christian said people with bachelor’s degrees can apply and can even get a local certification, which means for Marion County only. A panel can look at the candidate’s degree and experience and certify an accountant as a math teacher, for example.
A person with a bachelor’s degree “could actually even be afforded some years of experience based on the number of years they spent in their profession.” That experience could be added to boost the starting salary above $47,500.
People with bachelor’s degrees who do not want to commit to teaching for the 186-day school year can also become a certified substitute who can be used when a teacher is going to miss work for many weeks due to medical or family leave needs.
There are three categories of substitute teachers:
- Daily/regular substitutes: Paid at a rate of $117 per day with no benefits.
- Continuous or continuing substitutes: Continuing substitutes must substitute for 10 or more consecutive days in the same assignment and will be paid at a rate of $132 per day with no benefits.
- Certified substitutes: Substitutes must hold a valid Florida educator certificate, and be assigned for 10 or more consecutive days in the same assignment. They are paid $142 per day.
The district’s website state that the the state Auditor General’s Office “has informed districts that long-term substitutes meant to replace a teacher for more than half the school year in a long-term capacity, must hold educator certification in the appropriate subject area.”
Anyone interested in becoming a teacher or seeking employment in other available jobs can contact the district at (352) 671-7787.
Joe Callahan can be reached at (352) 817-1750 or at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews.
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