Monroe County schools need to hire 120 teachers for the 2021-22 school year. The district offers the highest starting teacher salary in the state at $48,400. CONTRIBUTED

Staffing shortages represent a new pandemic, and those plaguing the Florida Keys aren’t limited to hotels, restaurants and private businesses.

Local governments, too, are struggling more than usual to find and retain qualified workers, despite compensation and benefit packages that typically are more generous than the private sector.

For years, the Monroe County School District has offered the highest starting teacher salaries in the state of Florida. Teachers start at $48,400, which is more than 30% higher than the national average, according to employment website indeed.com.

But this year, the district is seeking 120 new teachers for the coming school year. District spokeswoman Amber Archer Acevedo attributed the teacher turnover to people leaving the Keys in general, not the school district.

Districtwide, 16 elementary teachers are needed. In the Lower Keys, Horace O’Bryant School needs three teachers, Gerald Adams Elementary needs one and Poinciana Elementary needs five. Twelve middle-school teachers are needed countywide — eight at HOB and one at Sugarloaf School. Keys high schools need seven teachers, including three at Key West High School and one for the Department of Juvenile Justice.

“The Monroe County School District realizes the importance of a viable compensation package, and ours is among the highest in the state,” said Superintendent Theresa Axford. “Teachers are paid 24 paychecks a year and most teachers work 10 months. There’s a week off at Thanksgiving, two weeks of winter break, a week for spring break and two months free in the summer. For a full-time employee and their full-time spouse working at Monroe County School District, family health coverage is free.”

Axford added that the Monroe County School District is an A-rated district. 

“The schools of Monroe County are high performing at 15 in the state of Florida,” Axford said. “Our district is at the head of the curve when it comes to the academic support provided to our teaching staff. We’re excited about hiring new teachers to fill open positions and to help them through training and support become a part of our school district family.

The district gives all new and beginning teachers the opportunity to participate in its New Teacher Orientation program, which exposes them to the tools, resources and avenues available to support teaching success. New teachers are also provided mentor teachers to support them and offer feedback to guide their teaching success.”

Pandemic or not, substitute teachers are always in short supply, and this year is no exception.

“Substitutes may work as often or as little as they like, indicate what schools they are willing to sub, and say yes or no when contacted,” Acevedo said. “The salary range starts at $100 with a high school diploma to $210 per day for retired teachers, which depends on your training and degree level. Training to increase the pay level is offered free to our substitute teachers.”

To learn more about teaching and other positions with the Monroe County School District, go to KeysSchools.com and select “Apply For A Career.”

Teachers needed in the Lower Keys:
Horace O’Bryant School: 3 elementary | 8 middle school 
Gerald Adams: 1 elementary
Poinciana Elementary: 5 elementary 
Sugarloaf School: 1 middle school
Key West High School: 3 teachers
Department of Juvenile Justice: 1 teacher

Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.