Florida approves new teacher degrees for Seminole State College amid shortage woes

Seminole County educators count this as ‘a big win’

SANFORD, Fla. – Want to be a teacher in Seminole County? Starting next fall, it will now be easier and cheaper to do just that.

On Wednesday, the Florida Board of Education approved three new bachelor programs for Seminole State College, including a bachelor’s in elementary education and exceptional education.

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“(Seminole State) is the institution of choice for the majority of our graduates,” said Jason Wysong, deputy superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS). “This is not just a recruitment opportunity. We view it as a retention and quality opportunity.”

The baccalaureate application presented to the board on Wednesday claims the College of Education at the University of Central Florida has been unable to supply enough graduates, and additional data predicts as many as 290 unfilled teaching jobs in Seminole County next year, jobs which would require a bachelor’s degree.

“Our goal is to graduate 60 students in the elementary education program and 40 in the exceptional education program each year. We hope to continue to chip away at the shortage in Seminole County,” said Dr. Georgia Lorenz, president of Seminole State College.

At the meeting, Seminole County education leaders explained how they plan to fill the pipeline for folks even wanting to be teachers

“The goal is to ‘grow our own’,” Lorenz explained. " It is true they may not all stay in Seminole County but that is the goal, and there is a whole population of paraprofessionals who currently work in SCPS who we hope will pursue this program.

“The students in our associates program, over 80% have said that they will pursue this program with us if we offer it,” Lorenz added.

Data presented to the board shows it will cost less than $14,000 to get a bachelor’s in elementary education at Seminole State, compared to $25,000 in tuition fees at UCF, and more than $200,000 in fees for the same degree at places like Rollins College and Stetson University.

“This is a more affordable, local solution rather than having to go to UCF,” said Seminole County School Board Chairman Amy Pennock.

Amy Pennock is the chairman of the Seminole County School Board. She understands the impact new teachers will have on the growing teacher shortage most districts are facing.

“A lot of our teachers grew up here, they came to school here, they have kids here. It is a family affair, and they want to come back and teach here. This a really big win for all us in Seminole County,” Pennock said.

The additional programs did not happen overnight. Records show officials have been discussing this for more than two and a half years.

The Board of Education also approved a new program at Seminole State College for a bachelor’s degree in public safety.

The new programs are still pending accreditation, but should be ready to take their first students starting fall 2022.