MANATEE -- Parents from Rowlett, Gene Witt and Wakeland elementary schools gathered outside the school board building Thursday afternoon with the intent of delivering signed letters to keep permanent teachers in schools for the first day of school rather than substitutes.
The letters read: "Substitute teachers are not the answer. They are not as engaged, create even more transition for the children involved, and create a clear disadvantage for the entire classroom."
The dozen parents were led by Rowlett parent Melissa Stochl, who says her son is entering kindergarten without a teacher assigned to his classroom.
Stochl said this also happened last year with her second-grader at Gene Witt.
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"His class had a substitute for the first 10 weeks of school," Stochl said. "It has a negative impact on the children, but the district doesn't see it from a child's eyes or parent's eyes."
Stochl and other parents were hoping for face time with district senior staff, including deputy superintendent of instruction Diana Greene and Superintendent Rick Mills. However, when they arrived at 4:30 p.m., the district offices were closed.
Greene told the Herald it is not unusual for school districts to have vacant teaching positions this close to the start of the school year.
"It will always be that way, no matter if it is a perfect budget year," Greene said.
Greene said teaching positions as yet unfilled are still open because the teachers are on leave, have retired or relocated.
"We are doing everything possible to hire back some of the teachers that were non-renewed," Greene said. "We will know the gravity of the situation after about four days of school."
Greene said she does not know how many classrooms will have a substitute teacher the first day of school.
"Kids are resilient if it drags out, but our goal is not to let that happen this year," Greene said. "If a school earns additional teachers, it is our responsibility to get them."
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.