LAND O’ LAKES — The Pasco County school district is sending recruiters out of state in search of job candidates to fill shortages in critical-teaching areas, but the teachers’ union says that travel money could be better used on other needs.
“We don’t think there is such a dire shortage that you need to implement this now,” Kenny Blankenship, president-elect of United School Employees of Pasco, told the school board last week.
Blankenship said there is a “rich local well to draw from” when hiring teachers, and current teachers complain of a lack of money for copy paper and other classroom materials. Money also could be used to improve new-teacher orientation and strengthen the skills of teachers already employed by the district, he said.
The board, though, approved Superintendent Kurt Browning’s request to send 11 staff members on recruiting trips to Illinois, New York, Ohio, Michigan and Massachusetts. About two to four staff members would go on each trip.
Browning said out-of-state recruiting is important because the district is “not just looking for individuals with a teaching degree.”
“I am looking for great teachers, and we will go wherever we need to go to find great teachers,” he said.
Kevin Shibley, the district’s executive director for administration, said spring recruiting trips are important because when summer arrives there is a “mad rush” by school districts to hire all the top-quality teachers that Florida universities supply and that supply isn’t enough to fill the demand.
Shibley described the recruiting trips as “very targeted,” with the district concentrating on critical-shortage areas such as math and science. He said already the district has made close to 200 conditional offers to teachers from states that produce an excess of education-school graduates.
The Pasco school district employs about 5,000 teachers.
Several years ago it was routine for the district to send staff members out of state to lure prospective teachers to Pasco, but hiring needs dropped off when the recession hit. District officials say the demand is starting to pick up again.
Board Vice Chairman Steve Luikart, although agreeing that out-of-state recruiting has merits, said he would like the district to track the people hired on the trips to see whether they remain employed in Pasco schools long term.