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Alachua County Public Schools hosts job fair for non-teaching positions

Charles Jackson Jr. looks online at substitute teaching career options. (Sophia Bailly/WUFT News)
Charles Jackson Jr. looks online at substitute teaching career options. (Sophia Bailly/WUFT News)

Charles Jackson Jr. was one of more than 70 people who stepped into Gainesville High School’s media center with the hope of walking away with a job.

Jackson, 31, attended Alachua County Public Schools’ job fair Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. There are currently more than 170 non-teaching position vacancies in the Alachua County Public Schools system.

For Jackson, applying to work for the school district allows him to give back to his community. His father was not in his life after he turned eleven, and he remembers how faculty and staff at school looked out for him.

“Someone passed their time on to us when we were kids,” he said. “It’s only right for us to do the same.”

In the media center, 17 tables lined the walls. School district staff and administrators sat prepared to interview and hire employees for elementary, middle and high schools in addition to departments like food and nutrition services and the transportation department.

Tonya Nunn, the marketing, recruitment and retention specialist for Alachua County Public Schools, said she was pleased with the job fair’s turnout. She began planning the event about two months ago after monitoring vacancies across the district.

The job fair was also planned with the intention of helping community members find jobs that fit their needs and their schedules, Nunn said. Some of the positions available included bus drivers, custodians, nurses, painters and paraprofessionals. District contracts were offered to qualified applicants who had either completed the application process or were beginning the process for any of the open positions. The job fair was a chance to speed up the hiring process, Nunn said, which can take longer online when employers are evaluating candidates based on a sheet of paper.

“We get away sometimes from that person-to-person contact,” Nunn said.

Nunn will continue to monitor vacancies in the coming months, she said. She expects to host a job fair for teachers in the spring and is planning a job fair for interns.

High school graduates or college students can also make a positive impact by working in the school system, according to Amanda Sullivan.

Sullivan is the site coordinator for William S. Talbot Elementary School’s Extended Day Enrichment Program. This after-school program allows students to stay on campus until 5:30 p.m. or until a parent or guardian can pick them up. The job requires applicants to be at least 18 years old and have graduated high school with a diploma.

In the past, Sullivan said there would be waitlists of applicants wanting to work for the after-school programs. Now, programs are struggling to fill vacancies.

When fully staffed, there are eight employees overseeing about 160 students every day at the elementary school. There are currently four employees.

To remedy the vacancies, substitutes have stepped in. However, having a consistent staff of employees creates stronger bonds between the students and employees, Sullivan said. Employees in the past taught students photography, ceramics, dance, sports and more, Sullivan said. For $15 an hour the employees are expected to foster relationships with the students and engage in games with them.

“We literally pay you to go play soccer,” Sullivan said.

The job fair also helped principals meet with candidates outside of a hectic school day, according to Kelly Armstrong.

Armstrong, who is the principal at Oak View Middle School, said he struggles to find time during the school day to focus on employee recruitment. He went to the job fair looking to hire two paraprofessionals, which he said are high in demand right now. Paraprofessionals work one-on-one with students outside of the classroom for educational or behavioral support. Oak View Middle School’s guidance counselor has had to step in to help students with individualized educational plans, which often require students to have a paraprofessional.

“When you have deficits, somebody's got to fill it,” he said. “You can't let the kid not have the support they need.”

When Armstrong received an email from Nunn advertising the job fair, he said he would be there.

Those tabling at the job fair also encouraged parents with children to apply to work for the school district. That way the parents could have work schedules that mirror their students’ school hours. Andrea Smith, 35, went to the job fair with her children, who are 10 years, 5 years and 18 months old. She was searching for a full-time position that carried 401(k) and health benefits.

“That’s a big thing for a mom with three kids,” she said.

She works at a preschool, where she does not currently receive those benefits. At the job fair, Smith looked into working for food and nutrition services or as a substitute teacher.

The job fair gave potential employees a chance to ask questions about different career opportunities and decide which positions would be the best fit for them. Ginger Stanford, the principal at Sidney Lanier Center, was looking for staff to support students with special needs, which some applicants hadn’t previously considered as an option.

“[The job fair] gives you a chance to meet candidates quick and fast,” Stanford said.

Applicants could be hired on-the-spot if they had a completed application, or they could be added to a list of potential candidates in need of follow-up interviews. Staff members from Alachua County Public Schools human resources department were also in the media center to help prospective employees complete applications.

A full circle moment presented itself that afternoon for Kirk Tapley. Tapley grew up in the Alachua County Public School system and began his role as the assistant principal for student services at Gainesville High School two months ago.

Tapley attended Littlewood Elementary School, Howard Bishop Middle School and Buchholz High School before attending the University of Florida with a major in history and a minor in educational studies.

In 2016, he began teaching social studies in his former classroom at Howard Bishop Middle School and has been with Alachua County Public Schools ever since. He said he is looking for qualified role models to prepare students to not only be successful in their academics but throughout their adult lives.

“It's a school district that gave so much to me,” he said.

Sophia is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing