Last year’s merger of Scotland High School’s smaller learning communities may have led many of the school’s teachers to leave the system, according to Superintendent Rick Stout.
At the board of education’s annual workshop this week, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Cory Satterfield reported that 52 system teachers have left their positions since the beginning of the school year in August, 24 of them from the high school.
Of those 24, 10 said on an exit survey that they were leaving to teach at another public school in North Carolina. Several also cited family relocation, career change, and dissatisfaction with teaching. Six of the 24 were athletic coaches.
Satterfield noted that teachers are under pressure due to the stress of implementing the new Common Core curriculum. Stout added that Scotland High School’s adjustment to one unified school and adjusting to a new principal likely contribute to the problem.
“One of the problems that we have is the transition that we had from the smaller learning environments to one big high school,” said Stout. “That just threw that whole school into a flux of change. We knew we had to go there based off of the data we were receiving about the inconsistencies. A new administration comes in, what happens is a lot of change there as well: some find that they will get along with the new administration and some don’t like the new administration, so then you have another flight of teachers leaving.”
When asked by board member Jeff Byrd if he had experienced 18 to 24 teachers leaving in the middle of a school year in his time as principal of Richmond Senior High, Satterfield said that that had never been the case. He also noted that many of the educators leaving are tenured teachers who have been in the system for years.
“Let me say this, as an outsider coming in and being the principal at a different school: All you heard was that Scotland High School was in disarray because of the learning communities and all of that,” said Satterfield. “I had teachers always come to me wanting jobs. I do think it takes several years to get your school back.”
Byrd noted that changing teachers in a course mid-semester is likely a jarring adjustment for students.
“I know there was a teacher who quit, so they’re thinking about combining two classes,” Byrd said. “Class sizes get bigger and they go from having a teacher who has a style that kids have become familiar with for the first seven or eight weeks of the semester.”
Board member Paul Rush said that, while teachers resigning mid-year shows a lack of professionalism, his first concern was not teacher retention, but student performance.
“I care, but I don’t really care how many teachers leave as long as we get our student performance to where it needs to be,” said Rush. “That’s what education’s about. Shame on these teachers that leave in the middle of the year, who are not professional enough to stick it out. Shame on these teachers for doing that.”
Stout gave credit to Beth Ammons, Scotland High School’s principal, for overseeing the school in its first few years as a single entity.
“Administration at that school makes or breaks the high school,” said Stout. “That is the toughest job in this system; it’s tougher than the superintendent’s job or anybody else’s. I will say that because it’s multifaceed: you have so many things going on at one time. The adrenaline will kill somebody because they will burn themselves out. Not everybody’s built to do 12 hours a day and longer, but that’s what it takes to run that high school and be effective.”
Satterfield also reported that the school system’s hiring of minority teachers is “in line” with the percentage of minority students at North Carolina’s public universities. Of the school system’s certified staff, 28 percent are minorities, while, on average, 34 percent of students at 12 state universities are minorites. Satterfield said that data specific to universities’ educations departments was not available.
“The trend for minority applicants in the education field is down, for a number of variables from salary to interest level to their feeling about education in general,” said Pam Baldwin, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
Satterfield also said that, of the last 30 teachers hired by the schools, 20 were already certified, with 10 lateral entry.
He also proposed a $1,500 signing bonus for exceptional children’s teachers. Stout said that the system may also hire case managers for special needs students, as EC teachers are more likely to perform well if they spend their time teaching rather than completing paperwork.
“We’re going to need EC teachers this year, and we’re going to need EC teachers who stay,” said Satterfield.