8/15/18 School board talks teacher retention

School board talks teacher retention
Classroom turnover still happening, but pace has slowed a bit recently
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 8/15/18    
Reprinted with permission.      

Neighboring counties are luring away Alamance-Burlington teachers, but not at the rate they used to.

At the Board of Education’s work session Tuesday, Aug. 14, Executive Director of Human Resources Dawn Madren presented the annual teacher turnover results — a breakdown of how many teachers left from one March until the next March.

From 2013 to 2014, 102 teachers left ABSS to teach in another county.

From 2016 to 2017, only 37 left to teach in another county.

Of the 13 counties on the list, the majority of ABSS teachers who left went to teach in Guilford, followed by Chapel Hill-Carrboro and the Orange County Schools.

Not all were lured over by higher pay. Madren said a number of the teachers stated in their resignation letters that they wanted to work closer to home or desired relocation for different reasons.

Board  members were pleased by the decrease, though not surprised.

“I can come up with probably a whole list of reasons why this trajectory is going in the right direction, but I mean one of the things that come to mind is what’s been going on with the Teacher Leadership Academy and Impact Alamance’s investment in that,” board member Tony Rose said.

The Teacher Leadership Academy is a nine-month program that accepts 50 teachers each year, taking them through lessons on leadership, culture change, data-driven change and more.

Board member Steve Van Pelt added that the district’s recent investment in school facilities has helped keep teachers as well.

But, while there’s been significant improvement in individual categories, the district’s teacher turnover rate as a whole has seen minimal change over the last five years:

•For 2013–2014, it was 15.49 percent;

•For 2014–2015, it was 15.33 percent;

•For 2015–2016, it was 12.10 percent;

•For 2016–2017, it was 14.59 percent; and

•For 2017–2018, it was 13.50 percent.

To understand that, look at all five of the categories the district is required to include:

•Dismissed/reduction in force

•Retired

•Contract/license

•Teaching-related

•Personal

If a teacher dies, retires, or gets promoted to an administrative position, it counts in the teacher turnover rate — so while it looks like 13.5 percent of teachers quit in 2017–2018, that’s not exactly true.

“When you hear ‘teacher turnover rate,’ what you think about is teachers who left because they didn’t like working here, or they wanted to work somewhere else more, or we didn’t like them working here,” Rose said. “There’s usually a negative connotation with the discussion, so to have ‘deceased’ and ‘retired’ included in that number, it doesn’t seem to be in line with what is thought about about that percentage.”

Superintendent Bruce Benson, who took office July 1, agreed that the percentage is skewed by those categories, but told Rose their hands are tied by the state.

“That doesn’t mean that we can’t do some of our own analysis to talk about what the real turnover is and the reasons why people are leaving,” Benson said.

He suggested conducting more exit interviews and compiling separate information that shows a clearer picture of the “real turnover rate” in the coming years.