TAMPA, Fla. - Classes are over, but teachers packed a Bay area school in hopes of landing a new job.
The Hillsborough School District seems to be one of the few local districts in good financial shape. It is not facing budget cuts for the 2012-2013 school year. Meanwhile, some neighboring districts are cutting budgets. Pasco needs to cut $26 million, including 87 teaching positions, and Pinellas estimates $14 million in budget cuts.
The Hillsborough School District received 1,500 applications for its summer job fair this week at Jefferson High School. The top 1,300 candidates were invited back to fight for one of 800-900 teaching positions. Principals say with this large pool of candidates it's a win-win for them, unemployed teachers and students.
Liuda Gonzalez, a 24-year-old 2011 USF graduate, hopes a principal sees her as the best choice for their school. She says, "It's a passion. I truly love it. I truly believe in the power education has in people and how we can create better citizens when we are educated."
But will passion be enough in a room filled with veteran teachers and applicants from as far away as Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana? Jim Good, a supervisor for teacher recruitment for the Hillsborough School District, says, "There are no jobs readily available in those areas. Their loss is our gain."
Patrice McCully, a former principal from Levy County, left her job to come back home to the Bay area as a teacher. Patrice says, "It is risky. Still, I'm hoping it's going to work."
McCully is interviewing with Dunbar Elementary staff. They have two openings. Principal Krystal Carson says they can afford to be selective.
"We have this really good pool of teacher candidates, so we have that option to take our time and check references, ask those in-depth questions to see if they have a good sense of what a good teacher looks like and what is expected of them in the classroom," says Carson.
McCully says her years as an administrator will help her be a better teacher the second time around. "I've seen phenomenal teachers teaching. Now I feel I can do a better job. I can do the things I've learned from them."
The veteran teacher says she has the option of returning to Levy County, but hopes she's able to return to the classroom in Hillsborough. McCully says, "I'm hoping they realize I'm just as enthusiastic now as I was in the beginning."
School district officials say they hire about 200 teachers during the job fair and 70 percent of the remaining openings are filled from this pool of candidates during the summer.
The teaching profession may be losing its appeal, however. Since 2010, USF's College of Education has seen a 10 percent drop in the number of students seeking a teaching degree.