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Palm Beach County public schools facing hundreds of teacher vacancies

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 12:31 PM EDT
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Thousands of teaching positions are open across the state of Florida, but no one is applying for them.

The COVID-19 pandemic environment is taking its toll on educators, along with an already approaching teacher shortage.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: State Of Education

In the School District of Palm Beach County, there are hundreds of vacant teaching positions and substitutes are hard to come by. Even some physical education teacher spots are open, which administrators said are usually the easiest to fill.

The situation is becoming so strained, Superintendent Mike Burke told WPTV he'll head to the classroom himself.

"Me and my leadership team are going to jump in and also cover some classes," Burke said.

The superintendent — who took over the school district's top spot in July — said he'll do whatever it takes to get teachers in front of students.

"We want to show that we are committed to this. And if I'm going to ask other people to do it, I need to pitch in as much as I can," Burke said. "I'll be in maybe one day a month."

The School District of Palm Beach County is dealing with a teacher and substitute shortage, which means other educators are picking up the slack.

"That leaves principals scrambling and calling teachers in to do double duty and give up a planning period to maybe cover another teacher's class," Burke said. "So it's a struggle, but they are doing a good job managing it."

According to the School District of Palm Beach County, there are 349 teacher vacancies as of Oct. 13, which is almost 3% of the district's workforce. Normally for this time of year, Burke said those vacancies are between 1% and 2%.

"We try to make the pay competitive. The starting pay is $47,500 in Palm Beach County. But, you know, I think concerns about pay remain and also I think just in this environment teachers feel they could be under fire or under attack for various reasons," Burke said. "Put the pandemic on top of it with health concerns, it's a tough job."

A tough job that some teachers like Jordan Hernandez at Boca Raton Community High School are more determined to do now than ever.

"I think all over teachers are struggling because they are human. Students are struggling because they are human," Hernandez said. "But we really want to be process-driven in this and focus on the solutions and really try to meet teachers and students in their need and help them because it is tough. It's tough everywhere."

Hernandez is launching a new initiative at the school called "Restoring Culture" to open the lines of communication and help staff and students get through this difficult environment together, while also keeping good teachers in the classroom.

"We need to be able to to restore what is broken by motivating people and speaking their language," Hernandez said.

For now, Burke said the school district will continue trying to be creative in recruitment, while he also plans his classroom debut.

"Hopefully it's a math or social studies class," Burke said.

The president of the Florida Education Association — the state's largest teachers' union — said there are about 5,100 teaching vacancies statewide right now.

This year, the number of openings in Florida has actually increased since the start of the school year, a sign of just how serious the problem has become and the burnout some teachers are experiencing.

"What I am seeing I have never seen before," said FEA President Andrew Spar. "It's not just people being frustrated. It's also a sense of hopelessness. And when people who are educating our kids and caring for our kids every day feel hopeless, there's a problem. And we've got to come together to address it as a state and as a community."

Spar added the FEA is working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on ways to better support those who work in public schools.

"It can't get worse. We can't allow it to get worse, We have to all roll up our sleeves, come together," Spar said. "Let's work together to make sure we are keeping the best teachers and staff in our schools, not allowing them to go seek employment elsewhere."

RELATED: School District of Palm Beach County in desperate need of substitute teachers

The School District of Palm Beach County has several recruitment events over the next few days to fill some of its gaps.

There is a substitute teacher hiring event on Saturday, Oct. 16 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at school district headquarters, located at 3300 Forest Hill Boulevard in West Palm Beach. For more information about substitute teaching positions in the district, click here.

On Monday, Oct. 18 at 5:15 p.m., the School District of Palm Beach County will host a virtual teacher recruitment event. For more information, click here.

Bus driver shortages also continue to be a big problem in the district, with job fairs still happening every week. For information about transportation positions, click here.

Here is a complete list of current teacher vacancies by school in Palm Beach County:

  • Addison Mizner Elementary: 3
  • Atlantic High: 4
  • Belle Glade Elementary: 3
  • Benoist Farms Elementary: 2
  • Berkshire Elementary: 1
  • Binks Forest Elementary: 1
  • Boca Raton Middle: 1
  • Boynton Beach High: 13
  • Calusa Elementary: 2
  • Carver Middle: 5
  • Cholee Lake Elementary: 4
  • Christa McAuliffe Middle: 2
  • Citrus Cove Elementary: 2
  • Congress Middle: 7
  • Conniston Middle: 1
  • Coral Reef Elementary: 1
  • Crestwood Middle: 2
  • Crossroads Academy: 5
  • Crystal Lakes Elementary: 1
  • Del Prado Elementary: 1
  • Diamond View Elementary: 3
  • Discovery Key Elementary: 1
  • Don Estridge High Tech Middle: 2
  • Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary: 5
  • Egret Lake Elementary: 4
  • ESE Diagnostics: 5
  • ESE Special Programs: 5
  • Forest Hill Elementary: 2
  • Forest Hill High: 5
  • Forest Park Elementary: 1
  • Freedom Shores Elementary: 2
  • Frontier Elementary: 1
  • Galaxy Elementary: 1
  • Glade View Elementary: 9
  • Glades Central High: 5
  • Grassy Waters Elementary: 1
  • Greenacres Elementary: 1
  • Hagen Road Elementary: 4
  • Hammock Pointe Elementary: 1
  • Heritage Elementary: 1
  • Hidden Oaks K-8: 2
  • HL Johnson Elementary: 1
  • HL Watkins Middle: 2
  • Hope-Centennial Elementary: 2
  • Independence Middle: 1
  • Indian Ridge School: 1
  • JC Mitchell Elementary: 1
  • Jeaga Middle: 3
  • John F. Kennedy Middle: 1
  • John I. Leonard High: 1
  • Jupiter High: 2
  • KE Cunningham-Canal Point Elementary: 2
  • L. C. Swain Middle: 6
  • Lake Park Elementary: 1
  • Lake Shore Middle: 2
  • Lake Worth High: 10
  • Lake Worth Middle: 4
  • Lantana Elementary: 7
  • Lantana Middle: 4
  • Liberty Park Elementary: 1
  • Loggers Run MIddle: 2
  • Marsh Pointe Elementary: 1
  • Melaleuca Elementary: 5
  • Multicultural Education: 2
  • New Horizons Elementary: 4
  • North Grade K-8: 4
  • Northboro Elementary: 3
  • Northmore Elementary: 5
  • Okeeheelee Middle: 1
  • Olympic Heights High: 2
  • Orchard View Community Elementary: 5
  • Osceola Creek Middle: 1
  • Pahokee Elementary: 4
  • Pahokee Middle-Senior High: 5
  • Palm Beach Juvenile Correction: 1
  • Palm Beach County Jail: 2
  • Palm Beach Gardens High: 2
  • Palm Beach Lakes High: 8
  • Palm Beach Public: 1
  • Palm Beach Virtual Franchise: 1
  • Palm Springs Elementary: 3
  • Palm Springs Middle: 3
  • Palmetto Elementary: 1
  • Park Vista Community High: 4
  • Pine Grove Elementary: 3
  • Pine Jog Elementary: 4
  • Pleasant City Elementary: 3
  • Plumosa School of the Arts: 1
  • Professional Development: 1
  • Roosevelt Elementary: 2
  • Roosevelt Middle: 4
  • Rosenwald Elementary: 1
  • Royal Palm School: 7
  • Santaluces High: 20
  • Seminole Ridge High: 1
  • Seminole Trails Elementary: 2
  • South Grade Elementary: 3
  • Spanish River High: 3
  • Starlight Cove Elementary: 1
  • Suncoast High: 4
  • Teaching and Learning: 1
  • Turning Points Academy: 1
  • U. B. Kinsey-Palmview Elementary: 2
  • Village Academy: 2
  • Virtual & Home Education Services: 1
  • Washington Elementary: 4
  • Waters Edge Elementary: 1
  • Wellington Elementary: 4
  • West Boca Raton Community High: 7
  • West Gate Elementary: 4
  • West Riviera Elementary: 10
  • Western Pines Middle: 1
  • Westward Elementary: 1
  • Whispering Pines Elementary: 2
  • William T. Dwyer High: 1
  • Woodlands Middle: 1
  • Wynnebrook Elementary: 2

The teacher shortage problem is not unique to Palm Beach County.

The Martin County School District currently has 35 teacher vacancies.

St. Lucie Public Schools has 16 teacher vacancies, compared to nine at this same time last year. The district as a whole has roughly 2,800 teachers.

The School District of Indian River County has 28 teacher vacancies, and the Okeechobee County School District has 22 teacher vacancies out of about 465 teachers.

Scripps Only Content 2021