The recent teacher turnover in central Ohio districts is on par with national trends - except in Reynoldsburg, where the school board and teachers union are in the middle of a contentious contract battle. At almost 19 percent, the 7,000-student district had the highest teacher-turnover rate among area districts that reported last year's numbers to The Dispatch.
The recent teacher turnover in central Ohio districts is on par with national trends — except in Reynoldsburg, where the school board and teachers union are in the middle of a contentious contract battle.
At almost 19 percent, the 7,000-student district had the highest teacher-turnover rate among area districts that reported last year’s numbers to The Dispatch. The national average is 16 percent.
For a district with Reynoldsburg’s demographics, losing nearly 1 in 5 teachers is a lot, said Richard Ingersoll, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies teacher turnover. Urban districts typically have higher turnover rates, he said. But Columbus schools reported just 5.7 percent turnover last year, meaning slightly more than 1 in 20 teachers left.
“It’s very troubling,” said Tracey De Feyter, who has two kids enrolled in Reynoldsburg. “Some of our best teachers are leaving, and that’s in the face of the district saying they are trying to retain the best teachers.”
Sixty-six teachers left Reynoldsburg before the start of the school year — 54 of them through resignations. In the 2012-13 school year, 29 of the 39 teachers who left had resigned. The district employs about 350 teachers.
The school board’s initial contract proposal called for replacing the salary schedule with performance-based raises and getting rid of the health-insurance plan. The teachers union, however, wanted a limit on class sizes and “a fair compensation package” to retain and attract good educators.
Both sides have filed unfair-labor-practice charges against each other. Parents and community members have gathered more than 500 signatures in an online petition against the use of merit pay.
Union members gave their leaders the OK to file a 10-day strike notice, though none has been officially submitted to the State Employment Relations Board.
Union leaders and district officials acknowledge that the state of negotiations has been a factor in why teachers leave.
Teachers have various reasons for heading to the exits, experts say. Some educators, especially those in their first year, don’t feel supported and lack mentors to help induct them into the profession, Ingersoll said.
Educators also might struggle managing classrooms with unruly students. Schools that do a better job of dealing with student behavior have a far better teacher-retention rate, Ingersoll said.
Working conditions, not salary, play a greater role in teachers’ decisions to leave. They might be hampered by a standardized curriculum, with no autonomy to teach their students. And they lack a voice in key decisions that affect their jobs — an area of concern for many teachers in Reynoldsburg.
“We don’t feel like we have that voice,” said Kathy Evans, spokeswoman for the Reynoldsburg Education Association.
The district has made curriculum decisions without listening to teacher input, Evans said, and, as a result, teachers are “weary of trying to keep up” with what the district is asking them to do.
At Baldwin Road Junior High, where Evans is a guidance counselor, 11 teachers left the school at the end of last year. Most of them found jobs in nearby districts. The board’s contract proposal, the high class sizes and the turnover in administration compelled them to seek other options, Evans said.
Baldwin Road has had four principals in the past four years. This year, the district has a new superintendent and five new principals.
Not all turnover is bad, Ingersoll said. Underperforming teachers tend to leave after struggling in their positions, giving districts an opportunity to find fresh faces. On the flip side, high-performing teachers are also likely to be cherry-picked by other districts.
“Those are the teachers you don’t want to lose,” Ingersoll said.
Reynoldsburg schools spokeswoman Tricia Moore acknowledges that contract negotiations have played a role in some teachers leaving, but it isn’t the sole reason, she said. Some teachers have moved to districts where they live. Some have been recruited by other districts. In some cases, the district hasn’t renewed contracts for teachers who haven’t met goals or student outcomes.
Although people have left, the district received 5,000 applications for available positions this year, Moore said.
French Run Elementary, for instance, welcomed six new teachers this year — two of whom are in new positions because of enrollment growth. One of the vacancies came when a teacher left for another district; the others were because of medical issues or a move out of the area.
Jennifer Spring, one of the new hires at French Run, moved from Lima to be closer to her family and was immediately attracted to Reynoldsburg for its blended learning initiatives, high student achievement and strong community support.
She was hired in June and spent the summer getting settled into her new school.
“This is a wonderful school with great leadership, a great team and great students,” she said. “ I feel like it’s home already.”