Orange County faces teacher shortage weeks before school starts

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Just weeks before school starts, the Orange County School District is still short more than 300 teachers.

School district officials said an earlier start to the school year is making it more challenging to fill those positions.

State rules have changed this year, allowing schools to open as early as August 10, leaving schools scrambling to make sure enough teachers will be on tap on day one.

Orange County Public Schools director of talent acquisitions David Azzarito is in charge of filling all the vacancies.

He partly blames retirements and student growth.

“Every year, we’re growing. We’re at 5,000 students. We’re adding new schools because of the growth,” Azzarito said.

The problem is statewide.

The Florida Department of Education is calling it a "critical shortage."

Last school year, there were 6,000 projected vacancies in the state.  That number was eventually brought down to a little more than 2,000, with a huge need for science, English, math, reading and exceptional student education teachers.

"We try to hit every state university and college in the state as well as travel outside (the state). We've gone to Pittsburgh, Kichigan, and Nashville. We're trying to find places that have surpluses of teachers,” Azzarito said.

Recruitment is top priority at OCPS right now, with only less than a month left to fill those vacancies with quality teachers.

The school district said teacher pay in Florida is competitive with other states.

A starting salary for a teacher with OCPS is $39,500, with the potential for $10,000 more if they go to a more challenging school.