OCPS’ teacher perks help with easing shortage
Posted on 11/07/2022
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Dr. Maria Vazquez: Hello, I'm Maria Vasquez, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, and this is Mondays with Maria.

Nancy Alvarez: Hi everybody, I'm Nancy Alvarez.

Jamie Holmes: And I'm Jamie Holmes.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: I've been taking a look at the feedback that we received on Thought Exchange and there's a recurring theme around teacher recruitment and retention.

Nancy Alvarez: Yeah. As a parent, you know, that's a concern really for all of us. And one of the thoughts that I actually saw was from a mom whose son is in voluntary pre-K, and she said all she ever hears about are teacher openings, shortages, and low enrollment in universities. So it's a big topic, top of mind for a lot of people. What are we doing here about the shortage?

Dr. Maria Vazquez: It is. The teacher shortage is something that all of the states across the country are dealing with. And at OCPS we are looking at our recruitment and retention efforts. We offer a competitive salary with benefits. We offer opportunities for teachers to get paid for tutoring; and at some of our schools there are supplements if they go and teach at those schools. Additionally, we have partnerships with our universities where we have teachers that can get their master's degrees for free, or their doctorate degree. And we have had great participation in that. And we will continue to look for a variety of ways to not only recruit, but retain our talented staff.

Jamie Holmes: A lot of that, of course, has to deal with pay, but a lot of pay is set by the state, right?

Dr. Maria Vazquez: That's correct. We depend on dollars from the state to be able to give raises to our teachers. Last year we were able to give a 6% raise across-the-board, and so we are hopeful that this upcoming year the state will also give us dollars to be able to add to the salaries.

Nancy Alvarez: I read a another thought that mentioned a concern for morale among teachers. We're talking about mental health all the time. We just did a story where we talked about it with kids, but we have to talk about it with our teachers because they're so impacted as well.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: They are. Teachers went through so much during the pandemic and post pandemic, and if we want them to take care of our children, we have to take care of them. So making sure that they feel valued, that they know we understand all that they go through, with not only the teaching during the day, but all the work that goes into after that bell rings. And additionally making sure that they feel that they are part of the decision making, that they have a seat at the table. And so that is something else that we are working closely, not only with our principals, but other administrators to help them see how much we value all that they do.

Jamie Holmes: Another one of the thoughts was about SLPs, uh, speech language pathologists and the shortages there.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Yes. Nationwide, there is a shortage for personnel that work with our special needs children, including speech pathologist. We are looking at a variety of ways that we may be able to incentivize for SLPs to come and work in OCPS and to help those that are currently working with us.

Nancy Alvarez: Well, although we can't solve the teacher shortage, of course, in one conversation, we wish we could. It is good to know that it's top of mind for you and that the district is aware and working to do something about it.

Jamie Holmes: That's part of what this is all about. Monday's with Maria, having that open door policy.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Absolutely. Thank you all for watching. We're going to continue these conversations and much more. Remember to look for the thought exchange link. I want everyone to be part of our conversation.

Nancy Alvarez: Stay tuned for another episode of Mondays with Maria. Next week

Jamie Holmes: I want to have a conversation about your shoes.

Nancy Alvarez: Oh my gosh. They're pink and sparkly and fabulous.