JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Duval County School District is working hard to recruit between 200-250 teachers before the start of this school year.
That number is down since Action News Jax first told you last week the school district needed to fill more than 400 holes.
Action News Jax reporter Courtney Cole shows us a program that's helping to recruit, admit and support local scholars going into education.
"This is a really big opportunity for us, knowing that we have a really big role to fill,” said Jarred Jackson.
Jackson is just one of the nine teens starting his journey to fill the really big role of an educator.
“Just knowing that we can and that we're able to — is very exciting for us,” Jackson told Action News Jax Courtney Cole.
Right now teachers are in high demand across the state — and in Duval County.
Dr. Tracy Pierce, the chief of marketing and public relations for Duval County Public Schools. Pierce told Cole, as of today, the district still has between 200-250 teacher positions that need to be filled before the start of this 2019-2020 school year.
When Cole asked Pierce if it’s normal for the school district to be this short two to three months from the start of the school year, he said, “Summer is always a time of teacher transition. Vacancies over the summer are normal.”
However, Pierce did acknowledge that the “number of vacancies is slightly higher than what we would normally expect at this time.”
There are 165 schools in the district and 80% of them are hiring.
Cole asked Pierce why there’s a shortage this year, and what’s led to any shortages they may have had in the past. He said there were a number of factors contributing to the shortage.
“One variable is school work environment. As you know, we are in competition for teachers with area districts that have invested significantly in the quality of their school facilities. We hope to have the opportunity to do the same, “ Pierce said.
District leaders say they're also seeing a shortage because they've noticed less students going to college for education.
Many teachers are also retiring or resigning.
That’s where the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Holmes Honors program comes into play.
The Holmes Honor Program was created to help support undergraduate students from historically under-represented groups, interested in becoming a teacher, a professor or going into school administration.
“It's a great feeling knowing that what I’m doing right now at UNF will eventually turn into something greater for the youth in the inner cities,” said Jackson.
The Holmes Honor Program is at 33 universities in the United States.
Now that the University of North Florida is a part of the program, it’s going to help students like Jarred Jackson and Ian Thomas fill that gap and step into their future roles.
"I really want to go back into the community and give back to where I went to school at. Out east and the northside schools and stuff,” Ian Thomas said.
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Jackson and Thomas, both Andrew Jackson High School graduates, will attend UNF to study education on a full ride, with the help of community donors.
"Now they're making a commitment themselves, possibly into their community schools—to be the teachers students often don't see in front of them and this specifically a teacher that looks like them,” said Chris Janson.
Janson is the director of the Center for Urban Education and Policy at the University of North Florida.
Jackson and Thomas were excited to tell Cole that DCPS Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Diana Greene guaranteed them jobs at Duval County Public Schools once they graduate!
"There's a special importance when people are local because they understand the local community and cultural context, in ways that will take other people, five, six, seven [years] – maybe a lifetime of teaching to start to understand,” Janson told Cole.
Pierce told Cole DCPS employed about 8,000 teachers last year.
Cole asked him how that number compares to last year, but he’s still working to get that answer.
But what happens if the district doesn’t have all of those teacher positions filled by the start of the 2019-2020 school year? Cole asked the District.
Here’s what Pierce said:
“The district will keep working to fill every position with a certified professional. If there are any openings on the first day, we typically cover those openings with substitute teachers until the positions are filled on a full-time basis.”
Cole reached out to St. Johns and Clay County School districts to see if they're being affected by a teacher shortage.
She’s still waiting to hear back.