CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Teachers across the state and right here in Southwest Florida have been voicing their concerns about the state’s professional teaching requirements.
The issue we are hearing about from teachers is that, in order to remain certified in the state of Florida, teachers with Bachelor's degrees have three years from the time they start teaching to earn their professional teaching certificate.
It's a requirement that teachers have told me, they feel is only setting them up to fail and a push for change that the Lee County School Board has chosen to join.
“It means a $2 billion dollar school board, heard a few of us,” said Samantha Zukowski.
That message, is nearly 3 months in the works, after South Fort Myers chemistry teacher, Samantha Zukowski started a petition, challenging how the state awards professional teaching certificates.
“It is around 6 to 9 masters credit levels of work, during the school year,” said Zukowski.
A challenge, Zukowski said is forcing teachers out of the classroom, and a state-wide issue the Lee County School Board acknowledged.
On Monday, members of the board laid out top priorities they would support, including changes to teaching certification.
Teacher Certification and Retention
Modify the General Knowledge Exam requirements to allow for “Professional Performance Points”. The proposal recommends that a new teacher who receives a District rating of “Highly Effective” or “Effective” during their first three years of employment, earns 3 - 5 “Professional Performance Points” that would count toward their score on the General Knowledge Exam.
Allow districts to have local authority over teacher evaluations and pay for performance.
“This is a chance to be performance-based, job security,” said Zukowski.
A change that could help school districts like Lee County address the state-wide teacher shortage.
“We do end up having to sever some relationships due to non-compliance of that,” said Suzette Rivera, the Assistant Director of recruitment for Lee County School District.
During a time when Lee County School District spokesperson Rob Spicker said the district offered 10 teaching positions during a virtual job fair in May.
and says most recently:
“…our recruitment team was at the great florida teach-in in orlando june 4th. this was an fldoe-sponsored job fair but was very poorly attended”
An issue felt in Lee County and something Zukowski felt school leaders are taking notice of.
“In talking to you and going to the school board meetings, and I spoke on it, during public forum, seeing Dr. Savage and the school board members nod in approval...she has a point she has backing, she is not the only one saying this,” said Zukowski.
With hopes that this push for change from teachers like Zukowski and help from the school board, can make a difference for all Florida teachers.
“I mean this removes federal influence this removes state influence this is professional by profession, how are you performing, lets take that centralization out of it, and if you are doing your job, and you're passionate about it, and you are making a difference in these classrooms…stay,” said Zukowski.
Debbie Jordan, Chair of the Lee County School Board told me these legislative priorities are items that the district believes strongly about and will advocate their delegation in order to achieve their local goals.