Nearly 500 Duval Teachers Awaiting Word On Fall Positions

Jul 7, 2014

The new school year starts in a little over a month, but as of now, about 470 Duval County teachers have yet to find out where they will start the year. They make up the surplus pool of teachers.

Credit Pixabay

It’s not a new phenomenon. Each summer, principals create a list of teachers no longer needed at the school based on student enrollment and budget projections.

Those decisions are also based on seniority, with the newer teachers most likely to be removed.

However, this year a series of reform efforts and adjustments have contributed to a higher number of displaced teachers than in recent years. The last time, the surplus number surpassed 400 was in 2011, amidst statewide slashes to the education budget.

One of the district’s largest reform efforts is to transform the 36 low-performing schools that make up Raines, Ribault and Andrew Jackson high school feeder patterns.

“There are teachers that opted out of the transformation schools or were involuntarily transferred, so the (surplus) number is higher this year because of that factor, “ said Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

The idea is to improve the traditionally hard to staff schools by improving their pool of instructional talent.

“Now, is the time to try to create a group of individuals who are deeply committed--and with either high level potential talent or proven talent--to work in these schools as we face these new (Florida) standards,” Vitti said.

A new performance incentive initiative announced in the spring offers high-performing teachers from other schools a $17,000 bump in salary to come work in the challenging schools. High-achieving teachers and principals already working in the schools get an extra $20,000 to stay.

But under the memorandum of understanding between the district and the local teachers union Duval Teachers United drafted earlier this year for the program, school and district administrators also reserve the right to remove teachers from the 36 schools. Teachers can also voluntarily leave.

According to district data, currently, 195 teachers have voluntarily or involuntarily transferred out of the 36 schools.

Another move by the district that likely played a role in displacing more teachers this year was the decision not to fully comply with state-mandated class-size limits.

Under current state laws, school districts are required to keep the number of students in classroom capped at a specified limit. In pre-kindergarten through third grade that limit is 18 students to a class. Fourth through eighth grade classes are allowed up to 22 students. In high school, the limit is 25 students per class in core curriculum areas such as math, science and English language arts.

Earlier this year, Vitti proposed that the district set its own parameters on class-size-- allowing core classes to have up to five students more than the state-required limit and secondary elective courses to have up to 38 students.

The move is projected to make the district about 90 percent compliant with state rules next year, and result in about $3 million in savings on teachers and resources.

Earlier this year, several teachers in the district expressed concern that the class-size measure would lead to more employees being cut or displaced.

Vitti said last week, the district’s decision to allow more students in each class likely played a role in the higher surplus numbers this year.

“That could have played a role at the middle school and high school but at this point it’s hard to tell because it could be an issue of offering more elective classes, so it all depends. You’d have to look at a school by school situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, district human resources data shows that school-level employee resignations, retirements and terminations have left about 170 instructional positions open. That number does not include district-level positions such interventionists and more teachers are expected to resign and retire throughout the summer, Vitti said.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, teachers in the district are placed into open positions according to certification and seniority. Until all the instructors within its surplus pool are placed, the district cannot hire new teachers or transfer teachers who are not on the surplus list.

That includes 100 new Teach for America recruits it contracted to bring in for the 2014-15 school year. Under the agreement, 300 new recruits are slated to fill positions in the district over the next three years.

Teach for America recruits college graduates who do not have education degrees and provides them with a five-week course in education in exchange for a two-year commitment to teach in low-income schools.

In an emailed response to WJCT, the organization’s  executive director Crystal Rountree said the new recruits will go through the same application process as in previous years.

“Just like in years past, incoming corps members have applied for open positions, have participated in, or are participating in interviews throughout the summer and will hope to hear by the first day of school--just like all other new teachers,” she stated.
 
Duval County Schools surplus numbers by year:

Duval County Schools surplus numbers by year:

  • July 2013: 203 teachers
  • July 2012: 240 teachers
  • July 2011: 599 teachers
  • July 2010: 444 teachers
  • July 2009: 521 teachers
  • July 2008: 254 teachers
  • July 2007: 240 teachers

Source: Duval County Public Schools.

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