Polk County School District dealing with more than 100 teacher vacancies as new school year begins

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Just two days before the start of a new school year, the Polk County School District is still looking for more than 100 teachers.

“I was actually in the military and I decided to get out of the army and start teaching,” Christina Bellomo told News Channel 8 as she prepared her classroom for incoming third graders.

Bellomo is one of the more than 750 new teachers hired by the Polk County School District. However, more than 100 classrooms will still be without a certified teacher on the first day of school.

“It is very stressful. Currently, we have about 111 openings. That means we have 111 classrooms that need to be filled,” Associate Superintendent of Human Resource Services Teddra Porteous said.

School officials tell us that Florida is not graduating enough teachers.

“We’re all competing for that same small group of students that are graduating from Florida universities and colleges,” Porteous said.

Polk Education Association President Marianne Capoziello has some other ideas.

“The teachers feel a little underappreciated, certainly overworked, and the fact is they feel that they need to keep and see a process where their salaries move in an upward direction. As it is Florida underpays teachers tremendously,” Capoziello said.

To help recruit teachers, the school district is starting new teachers at $40,700 for their annual salary, which is in the higher range for the state.

Substitutes will fill vacancies until more teachers are hired.

Until then, teachers like Bellomo don’t mind lending an extra hand.

“We do what we have to for the students. I don’t mind that, I’m here for them,” Bellomo said.

The district also said they are also working on programs to help retain teachers.

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