Palm Beach County teachers prepare for new school year

Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 5:10 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

School starts a week from Wednesday and our local school districts are still working hard to recruit teachers.

Florida's teachers union said the state has more than 8,000 teaching vacancies, creating a crisis in the classroom.

It was a warm and loud welcome Tuesday for about 800 new teachers in the School District of Palm Beach County.

"I loved that I walked into cheerleading and a marching band," said teacher Chandra Jolly. "It woke me up, ready to go."

Jolly is excited for her first year teaching public school and returning to her alma mater of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton.

"I taught middle school and wanted to try high school. So when Spanish River had that opening, I wanted to go back," Jolly said.

Jolly on Tuesday got ready for that first day at "Teacher Fest," a one-stop shop for all of the information and resources new educators need in Palm Beach County. The event was held at Park Vista Community High School, west of Boynton Beach.

Justin Katz, president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, said having the event in-person once again brought a renewed energy.

"We definitely need more people to join the education profession," Katz said. "But we had 800 people-plus show up today. New employees ready to teach, eager to teach, drowning out all of the noise that is out there about public education and the things negatively that are being said about us."

But the teacher shortage can't be ignored.

Katz said Florida used to be competitive in public education, but pay but has slipped in the last 12 years.

"We've gone from 37th in the nation for teacher pay to 48th. We're almost dead last. And that's just compensation, not to mention working conditions and some of the political attacks and politicization of public education," Katz said. "It takes a lot of people who are ready and willing to do this job for the right reasons, it takes them off the game board."

The School District of Palm Beach County currently has about 400 teacher openings, much higher than the average 200 they usually have heading into a new school year.

Superintendent Mike Burke said the shortage means possibly combining classes and moving district specialists to cover classrooms.

"Teaching is a calling. It's a noble one," Burke said. "I think we just do our best to support them and tell them to focus on their kids and classroom and try not to get too caught up in the politics that are swirling around. And that's our job is to somewhat insulate them, get them the resources they need."

Teacher Euinesse Jean Jacques is starting her first Palm Beach County teaching job after working in Broward County for more than a decade.

"I'm looking forward to a less commute and getting to know the county that my children go to," Jacques said. "From the parent perspective, I love what I see."

For educators like Jacques, the kids in the classroom make the job worthwhile and keep them coming back.

"That's everything in my heart for me to know that the kids are thriving and doing well and hearing success stories," Jacques said.

"The beginning is always challenging, but just seeing them learn something from you is an incredible, incredible experience," Jolly said.

Although school starts on Aug, 10, the recruiting doesn't stop. The School District of Palm Beach County will continue hiring to bring in more teachers, as well as support staff.

To learn more about job openings in the district, click here.

Here's how the other counties across our area are doing with teacher vacancies. It's important to keep in mind their teaching staffs are much smaller than in Palm Beach County:

  • Martin County School District: 16 openings
  • St. Lucie Public Schools: 64 openings
  • School District of Indian River County: 29 openings
  • Okeechobee County School District: 24 openings

Scripps Only Content 2022