Florida education policies hurt state’s ability to retain teachers

Willie Pyfrom, right, said he and his late wife Estella 'were like two peas in a pod. When you saw one, you saw the other, and that's how we lived our lives.'

Florida needs more teachers like Willie and Estella Pyfrom. Unfortunately, state education policies are making it difficult for public schools in Florida to attract and retain educators of the caliber of the Pyfroms, whose work in Palm Beach County’s Glades communities earned them overdue public recognition and enduring adulation.

For almost four decades, the Pyfroms taught music, raised students and mentored a community. Willie Pyfrom became known as “the godfather of band directors” for his many students who would go on to become music teachers and band leaders themselves. Estella, his late wife, was no slouch either. After retiring, she used her life savings to start Estella’s Brilliant Bus, a mobile computer lab that brought technology and internet connections to children living in some of the county’s poorest areas.

Willie Pyfrom and his daughter, Mia, unveil the silver lettering naming the music hall at Glades Central High School for him and his wife Estella on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. The couple taught at the Belle Glade school for decades.

Imagine school districts filled with such dedicated teachers. Fat chance, right?! Today’s educational environment is buffeted by strong headwinds working against both dedication and longevity. As Justin Katz, the Palm Beach County teachers’ union president put it to Katherine Kokal, the Post’s education reporter, at the start of the current school year: “We’re getting burnt at both ends basically. The level of attrition and resignation of career or short-term teachers has grown dramatically, and simultaneously the pool of future educators has shrunk.”

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