MANATEE -- Jean-Marie Steele has nothing against charter schools. In fact, two of her children have attended charter schools.
But she was surprised to learn when she went to a meet-the-teacher event at Willis Elementary School, one of Manatee County's top performing public schools, that her daughter would start fourth grade with a substitute teacher.
The reason? With the opening of new charter schools, the Manatee School District did not have all the teachers that it needed.
At Willis, there were five classrooms opening with a sub. And there were other schools facing the same situation.
"As a taxpayer and a parent that is not acceptable," Steele said.
She doesn't lay all the blame on the school district, saying that better communication is needed between the district and the charter schools.
"I am all for school choice. My concern is that the communication between the charter school and district is flawed. I feel like I am being penalized," Steele said.
Substitute teachers were
assigned to 17 classrooms, spread across 12 elementary schools, for the first week of school, said Joe Stokes, district director of elementary schools.
School officials were trying to be good stewards of resources, and not wanting to overhire, Stokes said. Part of the equation was unknown this year, including how many children would leave traditional Manatee schools for a new charter school.
A number of teachers went on leave late in the summer, opening up more positions, Stokes said.
Manatee Charter School opened with an enrollment of about 500, including 400 who attended regular Manatee schools last year, and 100 new kindergarten students. The Just for Girls charter school opened with an enrollment of about 100, most of whom also attended regular schools last year. Stokes said.
Teacher staffing at high schools and middle schools was not affected by the opening of the new charter schools.
Willis Elementary, an A school at Lakewood Ranch, had the most subs of any school in the district.
Superintendent Tim McGonegal has given Willis Principal Bill Stenger the green light to post three teacher openings and move forward with the hiring process, Stokes said.
Updated student enrollment numbers will be collected today and evaluated next week, Stokes said.
Each year, some teachers are moved from school to school, once the actual enrollment is known, replacing the estimates which are typically the basis for staffing at the start of the school year.
Nick Williams, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-748-0411, ext. 7049, or tweet @_1NickWilliams. James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, also contributed to this report.