COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — When students in South Carolina returned to school in the fall, there were more than 1400 vacant teaching positions.

The data comes from the Center for Educator Recruitment Retention and Advancement (CERRA).

Education leaders in the state say right now there is a sense of urgency to address the recruitment and retention of quality teachers.

Tuesday in downtown Columbia the SC Teacher Recruitment and Retention Task Force met for a second time. Soon-to-be State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver spoke to the task force.

Superintendent-Elect Weaver said the task force has a ‘tremendous opportunity’.

She told task members to ‘think big and bold’. “The way we have been preparing teachers, the way we have structured our system, may have worked 100 years ago but it’s not sufficient for the realities of today,” Weaver said.

Weaver said the task force should consider two things: the power of mentorship and leadership.

Former state Superintendent Dr. Barbara Nielsen is the chair of the 17-member task force. She said having everybody in the same room to work on this issue is important.

She said the full task force will meet monthly with the committees meeting more regularly.

The task force has until the end of May to finalize recommendations for state lawmakers.