Volusia prepares for new school year amid teacher, school staff shortage

Also: Volusia County Schools appoints new security coordinator.

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Like many other school districts across Florida and the U.S., Volusia County is facing a shortage of teachers and other school staff, with vacancies remaining as the school year approaches.

"These numbers are are still higher than we would like," Volusia County Schools Chief Human Resources Officer Mark West told School Board members at an Aug. 8 meeting, displaying charts showing the number of vacancies remaining for various district positions. 

Eight Volusia County schools were fully staffed as of Aug. 8: Beachside Elementary, Read-Pattillo Elementary, Coronado Beach Elementary, Spruce Creek Elementary, Mainland High, Spruce Creek High, Port Orange Elementary and Tomoka Elementary.

But that could change, West warned.

"As a former principal, I remember on the first day of school, there's always somebody that comes in and says, 'Great news! I'm having a baby!' or, 'Great news! My husband just got a job in Colorado!' or something,"  he said. "So I really hate to throw these names up here. But as of right now, these are the schools that are fully staffed, and we're hoping that we're even going to have more tomorrow that are fully staffed. 

Classroom positions, and exceptional student education positions in particular, are a critical shortage area, he said. The district still has a total of 253 instructional staff vacancies; 124 of those are for elementary school positions.

A shortage of math teachers in secondary schools has led the district to consider creating a pilot program that would have some math teachers work remotely, leading the class over a video stream while a substitute teacher in the classroom supervises the students.

"If we're able to do that successfully, I think that's going to be a very popular thing that we'll be able to put forward," West said. "That's not our first option, but it is an option for us."

Paraprofessionals are also in short supply — the district needs 84 of them — but a new $15-per-hour minimum pay rate seems to have "made [the positions] a little more attractive," West said. 

The district needs 10 more bus drivers and nine more attendants, but can cover all area routes with the current staffing, he said. 

"This is just the optimum situation," West said. "If we had 10 additional operators, we would be able to have everybody doing exactly everything they needed to do, full-time."

In some cases, the district will be able to fill gaps by moving people around. For instance, West said, the district currently has four elementary schools that have no school counselors, while some other schools have two counselors. 

"We're going to ... take a look to see where we can appropriately take from those schools that have two counselors and shift that support to the schools that have zero counselors," he said. "We're not getting rid of any counselors, though — let me say that right up front. We're holding on to everybody."

Volusia County Schools appoints new security coordinator

The Volusia County School Board at an Aug. 8 meeting voted to appoint Chastity Burke as its new coordinator of school safety and security.

Burke was previously the district's guardian commander specialist. She has an associate's degree in criminal justice and has worked in law enforcement for 20 years, including as a Volusia County Sheriff's Office detective and on the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, according to district staff. 

Burke joined Volusia County Schools in 2021 as a guardian commander. 


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