BRADENTON — On Thursday, only four days into the new school year, Rachel Eason sat inside the principal’s office at Palmetto Elementary.
She wasn’t in trouble.
She was trying to nab a last-minute job with the Manatee County school district.
Eason, 23, of Bradenton, wanted the open kindergarten teacher slot at the school on Seventh Street West in Palmetto.
Principal Eddie Hundley said Eason is one of just more than half a dozen candidates he’s interviewed for the position. He said 93 people applied for the job.
As the first week of school wraps up today, the district still has about 100 positions to fill. District spokeswoman Margi Nanny said an exact number was not available Thursday.
About a dozen teaching positions are being advertised by the school district, the county’s largest employer. There also are about a dozen food service industry jobs, many of which are part-time positions, and one principal position at Central High School. Omar Edwards was hired this week as the new principal of Johnson Middle School.
There are also a number of teachers’ aides and teacher-assistant positions open.
The start of the school year is often busy for the district’s Human Resources Department because it’s not unusual to have vacant positions during the first few weeks, said Nanney.
“We do the best job we can covering all of the bases until we see what our actual enrollment versus projections are,” Nanney said. “Once all the numbers are in we can finalize our positions and settle in for the school year. It’s important to note that, in a system as large as ours, these numbers can be fluid.”
The school district employs about 5,700 full-time employees and about 1,000 part-time employees, Nanney said.
The county’s second-largest employer is Manatee County government, which employs about 1,860 people, according to Lauren Kratsch with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council.
Like other classes in the district without permanent teachers, the Palmetto kindergarten class is being taught by a substitute until a hire is approved, said Hundley.
That’s a better alternative to starting them out in one class and moving them around, he said.
During a break in the interview Thursday, Eason gave Hundley one reason she wants to teach kindergarten-age children.
“I like the ah-ha moment — watching when the light bulb goes on, when they go from not understanding something to understanding,” said the recent University of South Florida, Sarasota Manatee graduate.
Depending on the position, the district can receive more than 100 applications for each job.
Clerical positions typically draw in the hundreds of applications.
Of the vacancies, 38 positions were posted on the school’s Web site earlier this week, said Rebecca Wells, the district’s human resources director.