Local News

District continues to seek teachers

SEBRING - School started three weeks ago, but advertising for openings and hiring teachers and support staff is an ongoing process for the School Board of Highlands County's Human Resources Department. Resignations can happen at anytime, and that includes just before and after school starts. At its meeting Tuesday, the school board will vote on the superintendent's personnel recommendations, which shows one teacher and two support workers had resigned one week before the first day of school. Human Resources Director Vivianne Waldron said a longtime Avon Park Middle School teacher resigned just before the school year to start a business with her husband.
Usually, there are about one or two teachers who resign during the first week of the school year, she said. A Lake Placid Elementary teacher resigned recently. "People get into teaching and then they realize they can't control the students or they just don't like kids; you just don't ever know what it is," she said. The first year is a probationary period for teachers, who can leave at anytime without repercussions, but they can also be terminated by an administrator, Waldron noted. "It would not surprise me with the number of teachers we have hired, if we had more than just a couple," who will resign, she said. After a few years of hiring about 60 to 70 teachers, the district hired more than 100 teachers this year to bring back a teacher planning period in the middle and high schools. The planning period was cut a few years ago due to budget constraints. The district still has 16 teacher vacancies, but about half of those are being filled with short-term "degreed" substitutes, Waldron said. "Those sub positions, if they do a good job, could turn into a contracted position, " she said. The district has more openings than usual at this time of the year. "We do have some advertisements out there, so we are still trying," to fill the positions, Waldron said. As enrollment increases and class sizes become a concern, Superintendent Wally Cox is in the schools daily at this time of the year to decide whether to add a certified teaching assistant to a classroom or open another classroom and add a teacher, she said. "We are still working through that whole process and it takes several weeks into the school year, watching enrollment on daily and even weekly basis to make those decisions," Waldron said. So far, no certified teaching assistants have been added. Those decisions will be made as "everything shakes out" and it gets closer to the October survey reporting period, Waldron said. School district enrollment will be counted officially during the week of Oct. 8 for state funding purposes and for class size compliance. mvalero@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5826