ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A record number of St. Johns County School District employees filed May resignations as the district and teachers union remain at an impasse over pay negotiations.
District documents show 137 employees filed a resignation notice to be accepted at the board’s May meeting, a record number of departures for the end of a school year, including the years that were upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The month of May typically sees an influx of end-of-the-school-year resignations, retirements and reassignments. Resignations in May of 2023 increased nearly 30% over the same month in the previous year – and more than 45% over May of 2021.
One likely contributing factor is the current state of negotiations between the district and the local teachers union.
The two parties hit an impasse in talks over pay and working conditions late last year, which has delayed the approval of the payment structure for teachers based on their years of experience, also known as the “placement schedule.”
“The placement schedule needs to be improved and that’ll really help recruit people,” said Justin Vogel, lead negotiator for the St. Johns Education Association (SJEA). “Not having that in place right now is obviously going to inhibit the ability to recruit teachers.”
Recruitment is vital, as the state of Florida grapples with a historic shortage of teachers. Michelle Dillon heads the SJEA and says all those vacancies leave a mark.
“That workload falls on all the other colleagues on the grade level or in the department, trying to do the very best they can not only for their own class, but also for that the class that’s missing a teacher,” Dillon said. “We are saying something has got to be done to keep teachers in the classroom in St. Johns County. So ultimately, we want our voices to be heard this year and for years to come.”
A spokesperson said the distirct has seen a higher than usual number of vacancies due to the pace at which new schools are opening in the district. Beachside High School opened for the current school year and two more schools are set to open next fall.
The district has been early hiring for the 2023-2024 school year since February, according to SJCSD spokesperson Christina Upchurch.