“We’re facing a crisis,” Volusia County Schools 2021 Rookie Teacher of the Year Shane Story told the Volusia County School Board.
Story is an ESE teacher at David C. Hinson Sr. Middle School in Daytona Beach.
“There’s just not enough time. There’s not enough people,” Story said. “Teachers are leaving the district. Qualified, experienced teachers with decades of experience are leaving the district, because they feel overburdened. They feel disempowered to a point that they’ve given up hope.”
Story and others spoke at the School Board’s Nov. 9 meeting.
“I personally have recently been made homeless,” Charles Peacock said. Peacock is a paraprofessional at New Smyrna Beach High School.
Peacock said he works multiple jobs and more than 80 hours a week with a minimalist lifestyle, and is currently living out of his car.
“At this point after four years for the county, I make a minimum salary which equates to less than $1,000 per month in a position that should be made a career. This level of income keeps me in poverty,” Peacock said.
School Board members listened but didn’t respond to the heartfelt stories, because the comments were not on a topic on the Nov. 9 meeting agenda, which gives the public notice of what will be discussed at any given meeting. The board’s policy also prohibits members from responding specifically to any speaker from the public.
The hourly rate for a highly qualified paraprofessional in Volusia County Schools in 2021 is between $10.02 and, at maximum, $12.38.
Paraprofessionals run the gamut from parent liaisons to highly skilled language, vision and speech tutors.
“I work with people every day who have to decide, can I go to the doctor or do I need to buy groceries? And that’s unacceptable,” said 27-year veteran ESE teacher Mary Tilford, speaking of paraprofessionals in Volusia schools. “They feel like they are left behind. But they get up every morning, and they do their job, and they do their jobs so well.”
“This group of people, these men and women, please consider giving them more money,” Tilford pleaded.
“Based on all gathered sources, the minimum salary needed within Volusia County to survive — not thrive, but just survive — for one adult with one dependent is $29 an hour,” Peacock said. “I make $11. After six years.”
Peacock told the School Board last year’s 3-percent raise equated to 30 additional cents per hour, while Volusia County’s cost of living increased by roughly 7 percent.
“At least one of your employees … is homeless. Living out of his car, crashing on couches from time to time, and getting showers at friends’ houses,” Peacock said in an emotional appeal. “I dare you to look me in the eyes right here, right now, and tell me that this is OK.”
November’s personnel update to the School Board showed the resignations of 40 support staff and 25 teachers. Only 12 of those resignations were due to retirement.
As of Sept. 28, there were 129 vacancies in support positions, and 77 vacancies for classroom teachers. More than 100 of the support vacancies were for paraprofessionals.
While the district has hired 120 more teachers this year so far as compared to last year, leaves of absence and resignations are also up by nearly 100.
The School Board approved an increase in pay for substitutes Oct. 26 to combat the problem.
The pay for a substitute paraprofessional is $11.44 per hour.