Sarasota faces teacher shortage due to DROP retirement

- At Riverview High School in Sarasota County, Ms. Evie Eddins is a favorite of the students.

Ms. Eddins teaches high school algebra. She has been in the school system for 20 years and has a lot of experience.

"I have done everything from interpreting to the deaf in schools. I've done test coordinating," she said.

Eddins is one of more than 100 teachers retiring after the current school year.

"They are going to be missing out on a teacher that gives you a chance, she always gives you chances and then she is strict. I am going to miss her," said Sofia Zamperle.

"I can basically talk to the teacher whenever I want," said freshman Clayton Smith.

Many retiring teachers are enrolled in the state's DROP retirement program. It allows them to collect retirement benefits while working, but they must retire at the end of their DROP period, which is right around the corner.

"My hope is, they fill those spots with people who are eager and willing to be teachers, that's what they want to do," said Eddins.

Those teachers, however, are hard to find.

A shortage of teachers in Florida has forced officials with Sarasota County schools to broaden their search to the Midwest and the northeast. They have already hired 300 teachers, but need an additional 200.

"They are attracted by our good starting salary, it's about $41,000. Plus, if they have experience and higher degrees, their starting salary can be higher," said school communications specialist Scott Ferguson. 

With years of experience soon leaving, Eddins hopes the right teachers will soon be found.

"To get into this profession, you have to understand that it's gonna take a lot of work outside the classroom," said Eddins.

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