Hayden School Board responds to parent concerns about teacher turnover rate
The Hayden Board of Education on Monday responded to criticism from parents in the district who said they are worried the culture at the school has contributed to the school’s turnover rate among teachers.
On April 12, several parents addressed the board in public comment, concerned by the number of resignations among staff in the district and the lack of attention to the issue by the board.
“We have our own challenges that we have in general, and then we have exacerbated challenges which are the reality of the COVID situation,” Board President Brian Hoza said in regard to retaining staff. “This is on the mind of every board in the country.”
The district has a goal of maintaining a 90% retention rate among staff across the district, but has not achieved this goal in at least the past seven years, according to data from both the district and Colorado Department of Education.
“Going back and looking at your averages and stuff, it looks like you are targeting towards that,” said Ed Anderson, district finance and human resources director, referring to the district’s teacher retention data. “You are going to have up and downs, but you are moving in that direction.”
Looking at the district’s data, which includes certified teachers from year to year, the average turnover rate stretching back to the 2014-15 school year is 21.5%, meaning the district had an average retention rate in that time of 78.5%.
The average turnover rate nationally is about 16%, according to a 2017 study from the Learning Policy Institute. In Colorado, turnover rates tend to be lower than the national average — 14.4% for 2020-21 — and have been trending downward over the past seven years, according to CDE.
The district and CDE data differ slightly, with CDE’s data showing slightly higher turnover rates for some years. Still, both sets of data generally show similar trends in turnover rates.
Christy Sinner, district superintendent, said teacher retention is a concern across education right now. She shared information from an internal Colorado Education Association survey released in February, which found almost 40% of teachers surveyed said they have considered leaving the profession.
Sinner said reading further into that data shows that in the next three to five years about 50% of Colorado’s teachers would be of retirement age.
To support teacher retention, Sinner said the district has participated in Teach Colorado, a program designed to recruit teachers to rural schools. Sinner said this has already paid off, with the school receiving more and higher quality applications for current open positions.
The survey showed teachers were considering leaving the profession because of an unrealistic workload, unsafe working conditions during the pandemic and low pay.
Pay is something the district has focused on, Sinner said. Hayden’s average teacher salary is below the average salary for teachers in Colorado, which is a little more than $58,000, but that is the case for almost 90% of the districts in Colorado.
Hayden’s average teacher salary of just over $56,000 actually ranks among the top 30 school districts in the state, and well above the average salary in the South Routt School District of around $44,000 a year.
Hoza said some of the challenges are teachers sometimes having to teach multiple subjects or “wear multiple hats,” which parents brought up in April, as well. He suggested the school could reconsider some administrative positions and see what could be shifted to lighten the load on teachers.
“It is never very popular to have more administrators, but better structure can help staff do a better job at their job and feel more supported,” Hoza said.
A charge of parents was that the district was not offering exit interviews to staff, but Sinner said the school has done so in the past but not last year because of the pandemic.
Anderson suggested the current system of exit interviews could be adjusted to involve members of the board in addition to administration.
“I think it has a lot to do with the employee having input and having some say in who they feel needs to hear what they have to say,” Hoza said of exit interviews. “There may be some that feel content just having a conversation with HR and there might be others that really would appreciate a more diverse group to listen.”
Forcing people to do an interview or have board members involved could overwhelm staff, Hoza said, but the school wants to find a balance so employees have the opportunity to speak with the board.
Parents said teachers have told them confidentially that the district censored a staff survey, removing comments critical of the district. Sinner said the school is working on a survey since the beginning of the year and shared the questions they have been putting together at the meeting.
It was clear staff did not want district staff of a parent or other member of the community to conduct the survey, Sinner said. Instead, the survey will be conduced by the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which provides special services for students in the district.
Hoza, board president of BOCES, will not have access to the survey, according to Sinner, who added the board would get to see unredacted results when complete, though there may be some redactions when released publicly.
“You guys got the full shebang,” Sinner said about the last survey the board was presented. “Nothing was edited, it was every word that was said by everybody.”
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Come Jan. 27, Moffat County School District could be looking ahead to a new type of school week.