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Jefferson tries to recruit Leon County teachers with higher pay amid a fight over salary increases

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The Jefferson County School District is holding a job fair Thursday night in Tallahassee. The district is staffing up as it prepares to regain control of its schools in the fall.

The Jefferson County School District wants to hire 52 teachers for the upcoming school year. It's reverting back to local control after the state privatized it in 2016 following a decade of poor academic performance. Incoming Principal Jackie Pons, who was formerly superintendent of Leon, says he’s gotten 150 applications so far.

“It’s very refreshing to see that that many teachers care about the type of work that we have to do here. And [want] be part of history...have a chance to be part of history; it’s never been done before," he said.

Jefferson’s average teacher salary is nearly $50,000 compared to the $48,500 in Leon. New teachers in Jefferson are starting off at the state goal of $47,500. The higher wages are attractive to teachers in neighboring Leon, where teachers there are involved in a battle with the district over pay hikes. Leon teachers still have not received the salary bumps from the 2021 budget allocation due to a dispute over how much veteran teachers will earn.

Leon's beginning teacher salary is still $3,500 shy of Gov. Ron DeSantis' stated goal of $47,500.

Sarah Mueller is a journalist who has worked for media outlets in several states since 2010. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010 and worked as a print reporter covering local government and politics.