Miami-Dade teacher vacancies dip but recruiting goes on
Miami-Dade Public Schools has a slight decrease in the gap of teacher vacancies as the school year begins. The Human Resources Department lists 18,000 teachers employed and 241 openings for instructors. The previous data available from 2019-2020 showed 17,584 teachers employed, a record low at least since the school year of 2010-2011.
The efforts to fill those gaps are year-round and the recruitment process never stops as at any given moment during the school year a position might become available. Marta Montiel, employment and recruitment officer, explained that the department is currently in the process of budget conferences so the numbers of teacher vacancies will fluctuate “because a lot of those openings will be filled with surplus teachers who will be identified during this two-week process.”
“The number of vacancies is a small percentage when considering the size of teaching workforce and the number of our schools,” said Dr. Dawn M. Baglos, chief human capital officer of the office of Human Capital Management in an email to Miami Today. “Our recruitment team works tirelessly to recruit and empower candidates to make a difference in the lives of students.”
Ana Flores, executive director of instructional recruitment, cited subject areas that are difficult to fill and have presented challenges over the past several years. Those are Exceptional Student Education (ESE), also known as SPED (special education); guidance counselors; secondary math and science; and in some cases English language arts.
Experts from the department explained to Miami Today that the same trend of teacher vacancies can be found nationally and is not a problem unique to Miami-Dade. They explained that enrollment in teacher colleges of education has declined over the past several years. The vacancies are also present in online schools.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools increased its minimum starting salary for 2021-2022 to $47,717 and provided a free health care option for all full-time employees. In 2020-2021 the starting salary was $47,500 and back in 2019-2020 it was at $41,000, according to data provided by the Department of Human Capital Management. Teachers also have the option of instructing more classes for additional compensation.
Public schools designed the Covid-19 Relief Funds Spending Plan, which details how federal funds received by the district through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan are to be used. The district received roughly $1.19 billion, of which $241 million, or 20%, would be for maintaining operations and retaining staff, according to the draft plan.
The department of education has deployed several strategies to fill those vacancies. For instance, they target their recruitment efforts toward content experts, since there are individuals that can teach without an education major.
The State of Florida allows experts in some subject areas to take certification examinations that allow them to earn a temporary teaching certificate. “We have a state-approved program that actually mentors our noneducation majors so that they can complete their professional certification requirements while they are already teaching,” Ms. Flores said.
The department has also been supporting its paraprofessional workforce to help them move to the teaching field. “We’re presently working on creating a pipeline for individuals to shift into special education, trying to grow that area on our own,” Dr. Baglos said in an interview.
Another effort has been helping clerical individuals who want to move into the teaching field. “So, we are actually partnering with our local universities and our own employees to find and create pipelines that can help them transition successfully into teaching in these areas where we know we continue to have difficulty finding available applicants,” Dr. Baglos said.
Tricia Fernandez, assistant superintendent, explained the public schools have a program called Teach Strong focused on math and science in which for the past seven years they have been recruiting 20 to 25 individuals with math and science majors from across the country, and once they are selected, they undergo a six-week program during summer to get the necessary training that they need to become full-time math or science teachers in the school year starting in the fall.
Additionally, Miami-Dade Public Schools has a partnership with Teach For America to help recruit eligible applicants to fill teaching vacancies; and they partner with local universities such as Florida International University, the University of Central Florida and the University of Miami to attend the job fairs looking for new applicants. Although these fairs are now virtual, the department continues to have a presence at them.
There is also an effort with interns from local colleges and universities. “We try to place them in schools that have openings so that once they graduate, since it is the last thing that they do before graduation, our intent is that we can hopefully transition them into a full-time position at the same school where they do their internship,” Ms. Montiel said.
The public schools also have been contacting their retirees to see if they would like to come back and teach again, without penalizing their retirement benefits in any way, Ms. Montiel explained. They offer the option of coming back to the school system either as a temporary instructor or in part-time and full-time capacities.
Ms. Flores also highlighted a program called Heroes Education focused on veterans and their families to make sure that they know that there are opportunities for employment for them across all jobs within the school district.
As Covid-19 is still present, the department constantly monitors local conditions to ensure the safety of the students and staff. One of the metrics being watched is the number of cases per 100,000 individuals within the community.
“Our key has always been and will always be to follow the science and keep our employees and students as safe as possible,” said Ms. Fernandez, “while providing the best instruction that we can.”