Alachua County schools still short 36 teachers

Pupils raising their hands in an elementary school classroom
As school starts, Alachua County Public Schools are still looking for 36 teachers with many of the openings in elementary school classrooms. (Shutterstock).

The Alachua County School District still has 36 open teaching positions as of Wednesday and has employed retired teachers and recent college graduates to help cover the gaps, according to school officials. 

The school district hosted numerous job fairs and recruiting efforts both inside the Alachua area and outside with hopes of finding new educators, said Jackie Johnson, the district’s spokesperson.

“We do some of our recruiting trips outside of the state of Florida and hold Zoom sessions for possible candidates,” Johnson said in a phone interview.

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Even with recruiting, classrooms are still in need of teachers. The school system has an immediate need for elementary school teachers and teaching specialists in exceptional student education (ESE) who work with both disable and identified gifted students.

Alachua Elementary alone is in need of two third-grade teachers, two fourth-grade teachers and one fifth-grade teacher, according to the jobs listing on the Alachua County Public Schools website.

“You know this isn’t rocket science. There isn’t a teacher shortage,” said Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe, also a high school teacher, said in a phone interview. “It’s just a shortage of people who are not willing to do the amount of work we do for the pay that we get, so if we can address teacher pay, I guarantee you the teacher shortage will disappear.”

In February of this year, ACPS and the Alachua County Education Association agreed to a $10.5 million salary package, making it the largest in ACPS history.

But, even with the large salary package, there is still concern about teachers’ wages.

Teachers in the Alachua school district make an average salary of $50,780.24 per year, and the median salary for the district is $47,853.71. Teachers who are recent college graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn a starting wage of $44,500 a year.

Alachua teachers earn less than the teacher salary average in the state, which is $51,598.82.

Several new state programs hope to help fill empty classrooms, among them a program to issue temporary certificates to former military members with at least four years of active-duty service, who have received an honorable discharge and taken at least 60 college credit hours.

According the Florida Department of Education, former military personnel seeking a waiver must also pass state subject area examination.

Alachua County school district has hired veterans in the past, but hasn’t had any applicants under the new state program since it was announced, Johnson said.

The state also is rolling a fee-waiver and bonus program for retired first responders and retired miliary veterans who commit to teaching full-time for two years.

And a new state program will allow aspiring educators with associates degrees to earn a temporary certificate and team teach with experienced teachers while they finish their bachelor’s degree. The experienced teachers who work as mentors also are eligible for bonus money.

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