An opportunity to redefine Broward public schools | Opinion

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I am honored to be the Superintendent of Broward County Public Schools (BCPS), and although I am no longer in the classroom, I will always be considered a teacher. I grew up in a family of teachers and continued to be surrounded by teachers throughout my personal life.

Although three of my sons are lawyers and doctors, I am proud of my fourth son’s career as a teacher. I know firsthand the commitment it takes and the sacrifices made every day in classrooms across Broward County.

The teaching profession is priceless. Our society cannot fully repay teachers for their impact on our world. While our district is grateful to the state for making teacher pay a priority, we know these raises are not enough for teachers in South Florida. As we continue to manage declining student enrollment and the cost of living, we must ensure that teachers can afford to live in the communities they serve.

Since 2018, the Broward County School Board has consistently awarded compensation supplements to our teachers, thanks to the community’s investment in education through a voter-approved referendum. For the 2023-24 school year, BCPS agreed to increase the average teacher compensation package by more than 9 percent.

Unlike most school districts, BCPS continues to guarantee our employees access to health care through a fully covered premium coverage plan rather than basic insurance. However, we know we have more to do for our teachers.

This is our opportunity to “redefine BCPS” and make it the organization the entire community deserves.

BCPS is committed to finding strategic ways to increase compensation. Within a few months, we reorganized our corporate structure to reduce costs and maximize central office efficiency.

We have eliminated more than 50 district office positions and redundant technology and education programs. We have limited access to our inventory because we meet the state’s minimum funding requirements. We have taken steps to be fiscally responsible without impacting the classroom.

BCPS has a large base. Our current classroom teacher vacancy rate is about 1% as other districts nationwide struggle with teacher shortages.

Many of our high schools are ranked among the best in the nation, and we are looking to replicate those academic programs as we strategically plan to meet the needs in our community.

We have closed more than 20 capital construction projects while rebuilding the Rickard Middle School campus. We must work as a team to achieve our goals by focusing on putting students first.

After visiting the district with my executive cabinet, I realized that because our budget is not aligned with our current student enrollment, we need to consider making some tough decisions. We will review and repurpose schools and expand effective programs and reclaim district-owned land or property.

Savings from these measures will be reinvested in our schools and teachers. I will also examine how these excess assets can be used to provide affordable housing.

We owe a lot of thanks to our teachers. I am personally committed to ensuring that our teachers receive the support and recognition they deserve. Their commitment and sacrifice are vital to our community, and it is our collective responsibility to support them as they shape the future.

The entire BCPS team, especially the teachers, is committed to planning my first official budget in December. It includes line items for compensation increases for teachers and other staff so that we can recognize our amazing team members and “redefining BCPS” as leaders and examples for districts across the country.

Dr. Peter B. Licata is the superintendent of Broward County Public Schools.

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