Florence District 2 plans for alternative certification programs to fill teacher vacancies

PAMPLICO, SC (WBTW) – Over half the teacher vacancies in the state are in the Pee Dee and Lowcountry, according to a new report.

“It’s very difficult for us to recruit quality, highly-qualified teachers,” said Neal Vincent, superintendent of Florence School District Two in Pamplico.

Vincent said his experience agrees with a recent report from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA).

“We’ve been able to retain many teachers,” Vincent said. “But they are nearing retirement, so we want to make sure that we have replacements in the pool.”

Not only that, but the report said areas like the Pee Dee often lose teachers to wealthier districts, leaving districts most in need least equipped to succeed.

“It is difficult to retain because we’re not able to pay salaries comparable to neighboring districts,” Vincent explained.

To help fill those needs, a new program called Teachers Of Tomorrow lets teacher candidates take 300 hours of online classes while they intern for a year in a classroom, the first steps toward a new career.

Teacher candidates would then work three years teaching 6th through 12th grade with a provisional license before being eligible for a full teaching certificate.

“We have not heard much about Teachers Of Tomorrow,” said Vincent. “We’ve received some preliminary information. We’re excited for any alternative certification right now, especially for some of the critical needs areas we have.”

Critical needs areas like foreign language and special education led state officials to approve more alternative certification programs like PACE, Teach For America, and six others. These programs accounted for nearly 10% of new teachers in South Carolina last year.

“There’s been times where we’ve found someone one or two years out of school who says, ‘Hey I wanna be a teacher,’ but they financially couldn’t go back through the process of getting credentialed,” said Vincent. “So it gives them an avenue.”

Vincent, himself a graduate of an alternative certification program, says the key to preparing teachers to succeed is setting realistic expectations.

“Making sure that teachers know realistically what the expectations are,” Vincent explained. “It’s a rewarding career. There are many, many more rewards than there are challenges in my opinion.”