OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — As every Central Florida school district grapples with teacher shortages, some districts are setting their sights on Puerto Rico to help cover the gaps.
Osceola County School Board Member District 2 Julius Melendez says, “You know the city of Kissimmee has over 40 percent of its population of not just Hispanic origin but Puerto Rican origin.”
A six-person team from Osceola County schools spent three days in Mayaguez and San Juan, Puerto Rico, earlier this month.
The group interviewed and screened about 200 candidates for open teacher roles.
“Right now, we are about three or 400 teachers short,” said Melendez.
Osceola County school board member Julius Melendez is one of six that traveled to the island.
He says it was a strategic move for the county, where more than half the population is Hispanic and speaks a language other than English at home.
The advantage districts see with hiring from Puerto Rico; there are no visa requirements which allows the candidate and the district to hire a lot faster because their certifications are acknowledged here.
The other advantage Melendez believes helps is with the student population, “Its nice for students to have somebody that they could have role models,” said Melendez.
Orange County says they heavily recruited from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar says Volusia County has done this since the 1990s.
“What districts have found over the years is very often, if someone’s coming from Puerto Rico, it works much better if they already have family in the area. They’re more likely to stay,” said Spar.
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