With the state of Florida facing a massive teacher shortage, this week brought hopes for helping solve the problem before next school year begins. Thousands of current and prospective teachers came to Tampa for the state biggest teacher job-recruiting fair of the year. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer went to the fair, and filed this report.


In the main hall of the convention center in downtown Tampa, sits a map of the United States with the words, “PINPOINT WHERE YOU CAME FROM� printed on top. Prospective teachers have marked their hometowns on the map-- There are 2 pins on Houston, 5 pins on Massachusetts, and 7 on Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans have been increasingly moving to Florida in recent years, and a government shut down last month, put thousands of teachers temporarily out of work. It’s created a new labor pool for Florida’s school districts, who say they need teachers, especially those who are fluent in Spanish. Audette Martinez, who used to teach in Puerto Rico, hasn’t found any luck. “I have masters in education bachelors, they…�

ACT-Audette “Everyone is telling me no, we don’t need Spanish, art. Maybe they need more science, art…�

ACT-Audette “I'm frustrated. One county told me one thing, another county told me

But Audette is waiting outside the room which might be her best bet. Orange County, which decided last month to take advantage of the political unrest in Puerto Rico, and hold an emergency tow day job fair in San Juan.

ACT-Melendez “I was reading the paper, and I said, now’s the time, lets do this..�

Javier Melendez is the senior director for recruitment for Orange county public schools. He grew up and went to college in Puerto Rico, and says committed teachers are growing frustrated there.

ACT-Melendez “They have to develop a solution and strategies for keeping teachers. One of the things is salaries, they can’t compare with salaries of the US. They are there for the kids, but they want to be respected and treated as professionals. They nornmally are, but the ..are deciding to leave.

The complaint of low pay is one heard here in Florida as well. The State is consistently ranked among the lowest paying in the nation, although the state board of ed recently released a study saying that stats all calculate their pay rates differently, so there’s now way to compare. The state of Florida needs to recruit about 31,000 teachers before the school year begins in August. Russell Anderson, the chief human resources officer for Lake county schools, says they’ve made a dozen job offers at the fair, 10 to people from out of state. Lake County needs to recruit 300 teachers in the next 3 months, or else they’ll have to call in substitutes when the school year begins.

ACT-Anderson “The biggest complaint is the lack of incentives were hearing from recruits..�

But for a random sample of job-seekers, the salaries they’ve been discussing are more or less equal to other states, and vary more by the size of the district. Eric flew in from Missouri, where he just graduated. He’s hoping to get a job teaching business to high schoolers.

ACT-Eric “There’s quite a change in the pay, big cities, from 40k to 28K, philosophy, you are there to help the students.�

Damon, came from Arizona, and just got hired to teach 7th grade math in Osceola county.

ACT-Damon “There was a surprising disparity is some of the counties, 5 thousand dollars.�

And what about the FCAT?

ACT-Damon “I’ve heard about the FCAT, but every state has the tests they have to prepare for …�

ACT-Eric “It’s called the map test, it’s the same.. you don’t look forward to it..its kind of a hassle but that’s the only way you get your money.�

The job fair brought out recruiters from 42 school districts, plus charter school and universities. Tara, who lives in Safety harbor, has been talking to some of the charter schools at the fair.

ACT-Tara from safety harbor “I've been exposed to some new charter schools thinking of making a move from public to charter..they're unique they are different, you need to fell them out…�

Carol Daughtery is with the Richard Millburn academy, which manages 6 charter schools in Florida, including one in Tampa. She doesn’t make job offers at the job fair, but tries to attract teachers who are willing to take chances and try new teaching methods. At the same time, the charter schools offer flexibility on their hiring criteria.

ACT ‘we want people to know what to expect, we try to align the pay scale..we take their experience that the schools don’t get credit for and give them credit..example district wont give credit for private school or university..we do give credit for those years.�

1,700 candidates pre registered for the job fair, and about that many more registered on site. Pam Stewart, the deputy chancellor for k-12 educator quality for the state, says the best states for recruiting are the ones which have a declining student population but an increasing number of new graduates looking to teach-states like New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota. Stewart says counties like Hillsborough, which need to fill 700 jobs, and Pinellas, which needs to fill more than 400, still have time to go before the school year.

ACT-Stewart “This fair is not the one and only way to fill vacancies..districts have job fairs, etc. well continue efforts, districts will continue efforts..�

Several hundred job offers have been made, including one more by Orange County, which still needs to fill 2,000 slots. Audette Martinez will be teaching Spanish to high schoolers come August.

ACT-Audette “I found a job, Spanish, with Orange County..I'm happy, I’m so happy. I did it.�


For many of Florida’s teaching job openings, you can log onto www.teachersteachers.com

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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