June 23, 2022 – With tears in her eyes, former First Coast High School teacher Kayla Solon recalls the day she informed her students she was leaving.
A veteran educator who taught Career and Technical Education – along with being the volleyball and softball coach – Solon said she knew how much impact she had on her students. They told her every day.
But after years of working 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. with a paycheck that didn’t reflect her time and dedication, Solon said she had to make the difficult choice to leave the classroom.
“They tell you how much they love you and care for you,” Solon said tearfully referring to her students. “That’s great, but…it doesn’t pay your bills.”
Solon is one of several educators – both current and former – who recently sat down with Team Duval to share their stories of being in a high-need, but low-pay profession…teaching.
They are speaking out about a 1-mil referendum that will go before voters on Tuesday, Aug. 23 during the general election primary.
The goal of the referendum is to attract and retain highly qualified teachers and staff through enhanced compensation. It will also support arts and athletics.
Teachers like Rhonda Howell, Rebekkah Link, Nathan Hafner and Monica Kirkland all say it’s a step in the right direction. They each share their stories about paying out of pocket for classroom supplies, taking on a second job, and seeking appreciation for the experience they bring.
“I take my own money to purchase things students may need,” shared Kirkland. “I really like celebrating my students, and I really feel that celebrating my students shouldn’t be a struggle.”
Former educators like Richard Palo can relate. He discusses how he loved education – and he knew students benefited from veteran educators – but that he could not afford to stay in the profession.
His story is representative of the record number of teachers who are leaving the profession nationally each year. Locally, this exodus has created hundreds of teacher vacancies in Duval County Public Schools.
District leaders hope the 1-mill will address this issue by increasing compensation for teachers and other staff. Voter approval is needed on Aug. 23 to increase funding.
View the Teachers Speak Out Playlist to hear current and former teachers share their experience. The playlist includes a discussion with First Coast High School principal Justin Fluent as he shares the difficulty in recruiting highly-qualified teachers.
More information, including Frequently Asked Questions and the ballot language, can be found at www.duvalschools.org/vote.