More teachers leaving Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools

jalexander@newsobserver.comDecember 6, 2013 

— More teachers left the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools last school year than in any of the previous eight years.

Some 136 teachers left the district by the end of the 2012-2013 school year, a 14.47 percent teacher-turnover rate. Of those, 24 resigned during the middle of the year citing different reasons. The most common reason for moving during the middle of the year was employment in a different district, sometimes in a diferent state.

The 136 who left last year compares, for example, to 119 who left the year before and 99 the year before that.

North Carolina ranks 46th out of 50 states in teacher pay. The starting base salary is $30,800, to which the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district adds a nearly $4,000 supplement.

After 15 years, a teacher in North Carolina makes $39,650 in state pay.

In a presentation to the school board Thursday night, Human Resources Director Arasi Adkins and Mary Gunderson, coordinator of teacher recruitment and support, outlined why teachers leave.

Adkins described one accomplished math teacher who left for an IT job that doubled his salary. She described another young qualified teacher who the district offered a job but who went to work in Kentucky because the salary was $12,000 more.

Gunderson and Adkins expressed their desire to keep these teachers but said that it is tough to do so, especially when the median family income in Chapel Hill is $91,000.

Among those teachers leaving, the retirement number nearly doubled from the previous school year from 18 teachers retiring in 2011-2012, to 34 in 2012-2013.

Teachers of color

Fifty-one of the 170 new teachers hired for this school year are people of color (black, Asian, Hispanic).

According to Thursday’s presentation, many of these teachers feel a small group of parents treat them differently, either putting them under a magnifying glass or questioning their qualifications to teach.

“There’s nothing wrong with someone questioning credentials, but we started noticing similarities and patterns of stories being told by teachers and we wanted to really zero in and see how we can resolve some of these issues,” Adkins said.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, parents in Title 1 schools with high enrollment of low-income students may request a credentials check of the teachers who teach their kids. Adkins said in her four years working at another district, she had received only one such request. This year Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have had three requests, all for black teachers.

“We only hire highly qualified teachers,” Adkins said. “All our teachers are highly qualified. We wouldn’t hire them if they weren’t highly qualified.”

“We’re going to try to attack this problem, and not just talk about it,” she added. “Acknowledge there is a problem and treat it.”

The HR department will continue to have discussions and help set up groups that help support teachers of color in the district.

Support needed

School board member Annetta Streater, who is black, said she appreciated the presentation but was not surprised to hear that teachers say they have felt that way.

“All of the teachers deserve to be treated fairly and respected in their roles and their credentials and integritity not be put into question because they look different from the parent or child,” Streater said. “So I’m pleased and hopeful, but it is not anything new to me.”

Superintendent Tom Forcella agreed that the support is needed.

“The last thing we want is a particular teacher not feeling like anyone is in their corner,” Forcella said. “I think we can educate parents. I don’t know how much we can change parents. But what we can do is do a better job at supporting our teachers, so they don’t feel that they are alone. That the district is supporting them.”

He said he would like the district to continue to recruit teachers of color. “So that our students have role models that look like them when they’re sitting in their classrooms,” Forcella said.

Debra Scott, principal at McDougle Middle School, echoed his sentiments.

“I want my students to see people who look like them in positions of authority, so they can (be) like them,” Scott said.

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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