Polk County Schools heading to Puerto Rico to recruit teachers and support staff

abc Action News | By Rebecca Petit, Time Kephart | March 1, 2023

LAKELAND, Fla. — As schools across Florida continue to look for teachers, Polk County Public Schools announced it will look overseas for new staff.

“The Puerto Rican population here in Polk County has surpassed the Mexican population right now,” said Ana Rivera.

Ana Rivera is the founder and president of the Puerto Rican Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Polk County. She said the Puerto Rican population is rapidly growing. Rivera said many people left the island, as the economy slowly recovers from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“The infrastructure has been affected tremendously. Unfortunately, it’s going at a pace but it’s still a little slow,” said Rivera.

Rivera believes with the changing demographic of the county, having bilingual teachers is important.

“Right now, we have about a 42% Hispanic population of students in Polk County,” said Jessica McNemar, Director of Recruitment and Teacher Engagement for Polk County Public Schools.

The Polk County Public School District doubled its international recruitment this school year but is now targeting teachers from Puerto Rico to help fill 200 vacancies.

“That population in the Davenport, Haines City area is just booming so we’re really trying to make sure our teachers match that diversity. We want to fill that gap,” said Caroline Giroux, Recruitment Coordinator for Polk County Public Schools.

McNemar and Giroux are part of a team of recruiters flying to Puerto Rico at the end of the month. They are also looking to hire support staff, like cafeteria workers and custodians.

“We have all types of other jobs available, and it makes sense to be able to recruit to an entire family rather than just one person in the family,” said McNemar.

The school district is not helping with relocation, but they are helping teachers find housing.

Polk County Schools said teachers will start at $47,500, and all PCPS jobs pay at least $15 per hour, along with other benefits.

The recruiters will be in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Courtyard Isla Verde Beach Resort on March 24 from 3-6 p.m. and March 25 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Representatives from Lee County and St. Lucie County school districts will also be on the trip.

Share With:
Rate This Article