800 DeKalb school employees resign

DeKalb County School District’s July meeting revealed 800 teachers have resigned between June and July.

From June to July, DeKalb County School District (DCSD) lost 800 teachers, bus drivers, substitutes, librarians, clerks, coaches, counselors and administrators.

The loss, reported by Leo McCauley Brown, chief human capital management officer at DCSD, comes approximately four weeks before schools welcome students back on Aug. 8.

According to Brown’s monthly human capital report, 100 teachers are leaving DeKalb schools for retirement and 521 teachers are resigning for personal or contractual reasons. The report also states 15 substitutes or temporary employees are resigning, 56 district employees are retiring and 108 general employees are resigning. Five terminations have taken place over the last month.

From May to August 2015, known as “peak hiring season” in school districts, 675 total teachers left DCSD, Brown said. He said the rate of attrition was down this year, as of June 2016, to 572.

Brown said this brings DeKalb schools’ reported teacher vacancies up to 236.5 as of July 11. The number includes 122 teaching positions offered during a job fair on June 28. It’s also an improvement from 396 vacancies reported in June.

While DCSD’s department of human capital accurately reports resignations, members of the district’s board of education are asking why they’re happening. Brown said no exit interviews are conducted but each resigning or retiring employee has the option of conducting a survey.

“We have 800 people resigning,” said board member Joyce Morley. “We do need to know why they’re leaving. We want to retain the best and the brightest teachers. What is it about us that makes them not want to be here?”

Brown outlined a “Day 1 Contingency Plan” to the school board, offering solutions via certified substitutes in classrooms, calling on retired teachers temporarily and suggesting a substitute apprentice program.

“Using certified substitutes allows us to provide students with an instructor who’s qualified and capable of teaching subject matter with no obstructions to the learning environment,” Brown said. “We currently have 582 certified subs who have indicated they wish to remain active in the district. This is also a great opportunity for our certified substitutes to transition to full-time teachers.”

Brown said 227 retired teachers have expressed interest in working with students on a temporary basis. The substitute apprentice program allows substitutes to act as a full-time permanent teacher while completing their official certification, according to Brown.

Which option is used by which school, he said, is up to district principals. Regardless, he assured that a teacher would be in each classroom on the first day of school.

Board member James McMahon said the more than 800 certified substitutes and retired teachers would be more than enough coverage to make sure the first day of school in August goes smoothly.

“We have coverage by about three-and-a-half times,” McMahon said.
Turner suggested holding a meeting with available substitutes to talk about employment goals and present the concept of transitioning to a permanent position.

“We are starting school still with the need for teachers,” Turner said. “We have [582] people in the same position. They’re still on the substitute list for whatever reason.”

Superintendent Steven Green said signing and retention bonuses would be available to DCSD’s human capital management division next year to provide a better scope regarding teacher retention.

“Sometimes it’s not all about money,” Green said. “Next year we’ll have yet another benchmark by which we can go by.”

Board member Vickie Turner suggested the problem with retaining teachers may lie in leadership, or lack of leadership, in specific regions or schools.

“In light of having bonuses and raises, I’m interested in why [they may not work next year],” Turner said. “When you leave people alone and they feel like they get the care or attention they need, by the time we get to them, it’s already too late. What are the numbers of staff leaving a particular school? We have to get in there and move expeditiously and recover before we lose them.”

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