PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Schools in the Glades Region of Palm Beach County are having success not seen in the past 20 years.
For the first time since records were kept, there are no "D" or "F" schools in the Glades.
It’s a big accomplishment, especially for the teachers and staff who have dedicated their careers to that community, but it’s not always easy to recruit and keep teachers in the region.
Michelle Pringle is in her 34th year teaching, and every year has been in the Glades. It’s her hometown community. She says, “this is the best joy I have because I came and I gave back to my community.”
She teaches first graders at Pioneer Park Elementary School in Belle Glade. It’s a small, tight-knit community that comes with its advantages.
“Out here in the Glades, we know families, we went to school with the grandmothers,” Pringle said.
In fact, she taught many of her current students’ parents.
It also has its disadvantages.
"These kids have no choice. They stay with us for a long time. Where in West Palm they have better housing so parents can shift from place to place, but in this community we don't have much for housing,” said Pringle.
The lack of housing can be a challenge for some new teachers coming to the area. Edwine Michel is the Director of Recruitment and Retention for the Palm Beach County School District. He says it is not as difficult to recruit teachers to the Glades, as it is to keep them there.
“Most of the time its actually once they get there in terms of the turnover, the difficulty for some of our newer teachers to find and build a life especially as they are building families and so on,” said Michel.
The district offers a special stipend to Glades teachers to help compensate for relocation and travel. Teachers can get $3700 to $5700 a year, based on experience.
Pioneer Park Elementary School went through five principals in six years until Pamela Buckman came in, another Glades native. Under her leadership over the past six years, the school raised its letter grade from an "F" to a "B."
Buckman was also nominated for the school district principal of the year this year.
“I’m here because of the kids, I’m here because I want to make a difference,” said Buckman.
She also credits her staff and support from the community for the success the school is seeing.
“It’s really because of what’s happening in the building, the teachers are eager, they want to learn, they want to grow,” she says.
Pringle knows the value in connecting with her students, making each one of them feel special and loved.
“We have to let our kids talk. My advice to the new teachers is get to know the kids and judge them for who they are, not where they came from," said Pringle.