The Buzz

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2006

Just how bad is our teacher shortage? "It's terrifying," says Scott Lempe, executive director of human resources for the Sarasota County School District. Lempe is referring more to Florida's shortage of 31,791 classroom teachers this fall than to Sarasota's anticipated shortage of 150 instructors. Manatee County is facing a shortfall of more than 500 teachers. Most critical is the lack of math and science teachers locally and around the state. And the shortage doesn't stop there. For the next 10 years, Florida will need 20,000 teachers a year.

The roots of the problem are described as the perfect statistical storm: the growing number of students coming to the state, the constitutional amendment that limits the number of students in a classroom and retiring baby boomer teachers. And, says Kathy Hebda, bureau chief for educator recruitment, development and retention for the Florida Department of Education, enrollment in Florida's education schools has been flat for the last 10 years. Last year Florida graduated fewer than 5,000 teachers. (Florida employs about 158,000 teachers right now.)

Further hampering efforts are the state's skyrocketing housing prices, which are outweighing the sunshine factor. "Housing prices have had an impact," says Hebda.

What all of this means is that Florida has to be aggressive in recruiting teachers. In 2004-05, the Florida Department of Education hired 7,000 teachers from out of state, mostly from states with a declining student population, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and New York. The Sarasota School District makes 30 to 40 trips a year around the state to universities and colleges and travels out of state to Ohio, Illinois, New York and New Jersey, where there is a surplus of teachers.

Florida educators are also employing alternative ways to certify teachers, including using community colleges. The students must have a bachelor's degree already and can attend a community college for one intense year to acquire the skills they need in the classroom. Manatee Community College was one of the first colleges to begin offering the Alternative Program for Teacher Certification last September.

Hebda is confident the state will fill the spots in time for the 2006-07 school year, and that students will be served. "I feel like the teachers we get will be qualified," she says.

Lemke, who says next year Sarasota will be in fairly good shape, still worries about the long term. "The deeper you go into the pool, the lower the quality. By our third or fourth year of shortages, we're dipping into the pool. I worry about that."-Susan Burns


50 percent from termination (15,738 teachers needed)

37 percent from class-size amendment (11,821 teachers needed)

13 percent from growth (4,232 teachers needed)


APRIL 5 "Good Morning, Greater Sarasota!" networking breakfast. 7:30 to 9 a.m. at Prime Financial Services/Advisors Planning Group, 2520 N. Tamiami Trail, Nokomis. Free for members, $5 for nonmembers. Call 955-2508 ext. 231.

APRIL 6 Greater Sarasota Chamber partners meeting, starting with a free continental breakfast at 7:45 a.m. at the Chamber Boardroom, 1945 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. Call 955-2508 ext. 234.

Greater Sarasota Chamber Business Connections networking event and mini-trade show. 5 to 7 p.m. at Hurricane Glass Shield, 4123 Clark Road, Sarasota. $5 for members, $15 for nonmembers. Call 955-2508 ext. 231 or RSVP online at

APRIL 9 Giving Hunger the Blues, to benefit All Faiths Food Bank, a focus charity of the Sarasota YPG. 1 to 5 p.m. on Hillview Street off Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. E-mail [email protected] for prices and information.

APRIL 11 Manatee Chamber Business After Hours 5 to 7 p.m. at the Crosley Mansion, 1 Seagate Drive, Sarasota. Members and nonmembers welcome. Call 748-4842 ext. 122.

APRIL 18 Florida Public Relations Association Professional Development Luncheon The Central West Coast Chapter honors the winners of the 2006 Local Image Awards. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Marina Jack, 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota. Call 953-FPRA or visit for details.

Greater Sarasota Chamber new member briefing 4 to 5 p.m. at the Chamber Boardroom, 1945 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. Call 556-4034.

APRIL 19 Wake Up Venice! 7:30 to 9 a.m. at Casey's Grill & Tavern, 900 Venetia Bay Blvd., Venice. Call 488-2236 or check for prices and information.

Manatee Chamber Business After Business 5 to 7 p.m. at Stoneybrook Golf Club, 7900 Stone Harbour Loop, Bradenton. Members and nonmembers welcome. Call 748-4842 ext. 122.

APRIL 20 Manatee Chamber Coffee Club with complimentary breakfast. 7:45 to 9 a.m. at First America Bank, 2811 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. Call 748-4842 ext. 122.

Hob Nob.Sarasota Style Food and festivities from the Greater Sarasota Chamber. 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Phillippi Estate Park, 5500 Tamiami Trail S., Sarasota. Call 955-2508 ext. 239 for prices and information.

APRIL 24 Venice Chamber Network Lunch Noon to 1 p.m. at Brauhaus Venice, 1766 Tamiami Trail S., Venice. $10. Call 488-2236.

APRIL 27 Venice Chamber Business After Five 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Venice Yacht Club, 1330 Tarpon Center Drive, Venice. $4 for members, $8 for nonmembers. Call 488-2236.

APRIL 28 Steve Gunderson luncheon and book signing The Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County presents the former congressman and co-author of The Jobs Revolution: Changing How America Works. 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Michael's On East, 1212 East Ave. S., Sarasota. $65. Call 309-1200 ext. 203 or e-mail [email protected] for reservations.

APRIL 28-29 Suncoast EXPO, showcasing Englewood businesses and their wares. Friday and Saturday at the Englewood Sports Complex, 1300 S. River Road, Englewood. Call 474-5511 for booth prices and reservations.



An Elementary Education

MCC's Sarah Pappas started as a third-grade teacher.

Dr. Sarah Pappas has been president of Manatee Community College since 1997. In 2006 she marks her 40th year of working in public education in Florida.

"In 1966 my husband and I moved to Tampa from Pennsylvania when he got a job in the fine arts department at USF. I had been working in an insurance company in New York, and at the same time I was starting my master's in social-science education. I had no student teaching experience-it was all theoretical, in the university classroom-but I got a job teaching third grade at Berkeley Prep School. What appealed to me was that it was the first year Berkeley Prep added lower-division classes. It operated out of the community room of an Episcopal church in Hyde Park, and I had 11 kids. I was grateful that my first foray was in a small class, because I literally did not know what I was doing. If I'd had a regular class, I probably would have left education.

"I have such respect for elementary-ed teachers; they work very, very hard. I had to be with the children eight hours a day; I had to teach art and phys ed; I had to eat lunch with them. I was learning as I was going. I made $2,400 that first year, stayed there three years and worked my way up to $4,000. Then I went to teaching college-prep courses at St. Pete Community College, and my salary jumped to $10,000. I went right out and bought myself a Camaro convertible."-Ilene Denton



Sarasota County tourist numbers

Winter season hotel occupancy: 90 percent

Off-season hotel occupancy: 70 percent

Counties in Florida that levy a bed tax*: 57

Rank of Sarasota for bed tax dollars spent on marketing: 56

Rank of Sarasota as one of the state's top 15 destinations for visitors from Florida: 15

Amount each penny of the bed tax in Sarasota collects: $2.3 million

Bed tax collected in 2004-05: $7.3 million

In 2003-04: $6.9 million

In 2002-03: $6 million

2004-05's highest month's bed tax collection: $1.3 million (March)

2004-05's lowest month's bed tax collection: $260,470 (September)

Rank of cities of Sarasota, Siesta Key and Longboat Key as county bed tax collectors: 1, 2 and 3

* Tourist Development Tax collected on each dollar spent in a Sarasota County hotel bed. Sarasota County currently levies three pennies on each dollar.

Sources: Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sarasota County Tax Collector


The Old college Try

Can the North Trail finally be revitalized?

Clarence Eng of Renaissance Planning Group in Tampa is the consultant for Innovation 41, a group trying to revamp the shabby North Trail gateway to Sarasota and Manatee counties. (Members are USF Sarasota-Manatee, New College of Florida, FSU Ringling Center for the Cultural Arts, Ringling School of Art and Design, the city of Sarasota, Sarasota County, Manatee County and the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority.) His first report is due this month.

1. What are the goals for the North Trail? It should be a place where you can live, work, shop and play; the sort of place where, if you had time on the weekend and you wondered where to go, you'd think of this area. Right now the neighborhoods are varied. Attainable housing is scarce. This area can accommodate converting buildings from hourly motels to a real place. Overall we see it as a combined district, a string of pearls tied together.

2. What are its attributes? The large concentration of educational and cultural institutions and its proximity to downtown and amenities like the Van Wezel. Its physical location is an asset. There's a lot of capital investment right now. Ringling School has new dorms and a $10 million student center. The museum has $46 million in new facilities. New College is planning five new dorms-$23 million-and new buildings. USF's new campus is $25 million. The city of Sarasota is working on infrastructure and road construction. The area is transitioning from an older tourist corridor to what you're experiencing on the southern end: a higher-end residential area with condos and mixed use.

3. What are the biggest challenges? This is a town-and-gown environment, where you have educational or cultural areas and a spillover and interface with the community. Whenever you're adjacent to the white elephant-a university-there's an antagonism and mistrust. The University of Pennsylvania [in Philadelphia] faced this problem. How do you revitalize an area filled with crime and serious housing issues adjacent to a huge campus? They created retail, bookstores, restaurants, new housing. The North Trail is a very long, varied corridor that requires different applications and treatments; for example, north of Gen. Spaatz Boulevard it's suburban and south is very urban.

4. Is the price of land hampering redevelopment? The high prices are a major factor. And some of the lots are small and irregular. There are zoning issues in terms of what is permitted, the height of buildings, the amount of parking.

5. Community leaders have been talking about improving the North Trail for decades. Will anything really happen? If it were easy, it would already be done. The real ability for this corridor to transform will be a combination of good design, being able to create a place that is programmatically very interconnected. How do you link the pearls? We walked from a meeting at Ringling School to have lunch. We missed Carr's [Corner Café] because we didn't see the signage. We walked past Winn-Dixie, past Jungle Gardens and as far as Kentucky Fried Chicken. You have these great institutions, but the fabric in between is not to the same level.-Susan Burns

Filed under
Show Comments