District to add teaching positions
SEBRING - The School Board of Highlands County aims to add nearly 40 teaching positions for the next school year, according to the first draft of Superintendent Wally Cox’s personnel plan for 2013-14. Most of the new positions will be at the middle and high schools. Cox announced in February that he planned to hire 37.5 teachers to bring back the planning period for secondary teachers that was cut in the 2009-10 school year when the economic downturn affected state revenue. At Thursday’s school board meeting, Cox presented his plan for next school year, which calls for an increase of 38.5 teachers at the school level.Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Mike Averyt said Friday that about 35.5 new teaching positions are due to the return of the planning period. At eight, Sebring High is slated for the largest increase in teaching positions. One position is being cut due to a decrease in students, but nine positions will be added for the planning time. For budgeting purposes the average teacher salary and benefits cost is $57,287, Averyt said. So it will cost around $2.2 million for the additional teachers. Though the final level of funding is not yet known, both the Senate and House budgets have more money than in recent years, he noted. This first personnel draft is used in the process of reappointing the current employees for next year, Averyt said. There have been no increases in staff based on department budget requests. That will come later. Hill-Gustat Middle School is slated to get four more teachers for planning time and one more due to an increase in student population. Principal Chris Doty said: “Right now I am in the midst of hiring. So far we have hired some amazing teachers and I’ve got a few more positions advertised, but I am very, very encouraged by the applicants.” Several of the secondary schools are advertising teaching positions, he noted. “My hope is by returning planning to teachers, in the way that we are doing it, it is going to give teachers the opportunity to be able to plan a little bit deeper and to spend a little bit more time with their curriculum to offer those higher-order thinking process type lessons,” he said. Also, the planning time will provide teachers time in the mornings to meet with parents, Doty said. Now parents have to meet with guidance counselors.