Though the calendar and thermometers say it is still summer, children in grades K-12 are heading to class today.
The new academic year begins with a noticeable shortage of teachers in Volusia County public schools. In the closing days of summer vacation, educators scrambled to fill vacancies.
Christy Mahaney, the Volusia School District’s coordinator of teacher recruitment and retention, said the exact number of vacancies varies daily.
“It’s like watching a roller coaster. It goes up, and then it goes down,” she told The Beacon.
As of Aug. 15, the school district reported 217 vacancies.
In which teaching fields or subjects are the shortages really acute?
“Our critical shortages are exceptional-student education [ESE], math and science. We have a really critical need for guidance counselors,” Volusia School District Human Resources Director Joseph West said. “But we’re working to make sure that every one of those classrooms has an adult in there on the first day of school.”
Is the deficit more noticeable at either the elementary or secondary level?
“It’s pretty much across the board,” Mahaney said. “We have some schools that are more critical than others.”
Mahaney said there will be adult supervision in the classrooms, even if School District staffers themselves must go on temporary duty at the schools.
“All hands on deck for our kids,” she said. “There will be a teacher or a district staff member. They might have a substitute.”
Asked about the length of time needed to hire a teacher, Mahaney said the prospective hires must provide references, academic transcripts and other documents along with an application.
“A lot of it depends on the speed of the candidate,” she said.
Mahaney said one delay in the hiring process is getting results of the mandatory drug tests.
“It’s taking a little bit longer,” she said, noting the school system contracts with Centra Care for the drug tests. “They have their worker shortages.”
Volusia is not the only place grappling with a shortage of teachers. The problem is both statewide and nationwide.
“We are all looking at the same pool of candidates,” Volusia Human Resources Director West said.
At the state level, Florida is looking to bring veterans into classrooms to ease staffing problems by loosening requirements. While nonveterans must have a bachelor’s degree to become classroom teachers, veterans now need only have 60 college credits to get a five-year temporary teaching certificate.
Volusia is making teaching rewarding.
“We have a starting salary of $47,500 for new teachers. That is what the state has put the salary at, and we have been able to meet that,” West said.
At this writing, Mahaney, West and their colleagues are working hard to fill the open positions, and they are welcoming prospective teachers.
“In closing, I would say, if you have ever thought about what your next steps are, please reach out to us,” Mahaney said. “We will help you with the next steps and certification, and if you have questions, reach out to Recruitment and Retention, and we’ll be happy to reach back to you.”
To reach Mahaney or West, call 386-734-7190, ext. 20492.