Miami Herald, Florida.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006.
Teachers of the visually-impaired in Miami-Dade say they're on the verge of burning out.
The task of educating visually-impaired students rests with 21 special-education teachers in Miami-Dade, but some complain the district has not done enough to attract much needed help.
The teachers visit up to six schools per day, providing services that foster Braille literacy and visual instruction. Many say they rack up to 600 miles per month.
''Some of the teachers are losing their minds,'' said Linda Rose, who has been teaching for about 30 years. ``We're just being stretched too thin.''
Added Caren Lyman, who teaches and chairs the department for the visually impaired: ``Some of the teachers can't find time to assist all the students.''
Rose said she believes long work hours and no extra pay have deterred some who work with the visually-impaired from seeking work in the Miami-Dade district.
Since last school year, the group has been lobbying district officials for additional pay. Lyman and Rose pointed out that some other special-ed teachers, such as speech language pathologists and sign language interpreters, receive supplemental bonuses.
In Broward County, teachers of the visually-impaired receive an annual $3,000 bonus, said Valerie Scott, head of the program. There are currently five teachers serving the visually-impaired. She said the bonus stems from a need to attract more special-ed teachers to the program. Scott said there is a nationwide shortage of about 3,000.
But Miami-Dade school officials say no bonus has been approved because there has been no such shortage in the district.
''We give the other two types of employees the supplemental because those positions are harder to fill,'' district spokesman Joseph Garcia said. ``It's a market-driven decision.''
Garcia said there is currently only one vacancy among the 21 positions.
In October, the Miami-Dade School Board voted to increase the group's gas mileage reimbursement rate after a recent story in The Miami Herald detailed the group's concerns.
Some teachers say they need more -- especially more help.
''I love working with the kids,'' Rose said. ``We're just asking that the district do their part in helping us meet the needs of the students.''
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