DENVER — Teachers are leaving the Douglas County School District (DCSD) in droves, or at least, that’s what you might think after watching a last week’s report by KUSA-9News Education reporter, Nelson Garcia. But the number of teachers expected to leave the district this year is no higher than in prior years.
The district expects to have about 300 of its 3,400 teachers – roughly ten percent – to leave the district for various reason including retirement or to teach in another district.
Garcia’s report – the second 9News report on Douglas County teachers leaving last month – focused on two teachers, John Kissingford and Carlye Holladay, who said they are leaving a Parker high school because they have had enough with the central administration.
An average 10 percent attrition rate is not unusual for large districts in the state. Littleton, Cherry Creek and Boulder also average around a 10 percent attrition rate for the past few years. Denver and Aurora have actually seen a larger number of teachers leave, closer to 20 percent.
Kissingford and Holladay told 9News that teachers feel “undervalued, unappreciated, and they’re looking for other options,” because “the relationship between teachers and central administration has become unfortunately adversarial.” Holladay and Kissingford said that teachers are particularly upset about the district’s new teacher evaluations, because they had little involvement in its development.
But Kissingford and Holladay’s claims are not typical of teachers in Douglas County, according to the results of the recent Colorado TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading & Learning) survey.
According to a recent report on those survey results, a higher proportion of Douglas County teachers said that there was “an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect in their school (79 percent), that their school leadership communicates clear expectations to students and parents (87 percent), that the faculty and leadership have a shared vision (77 percent) and that the school leadership communicates with the faculty adequately (82 percent)” than did educators in other parts of the state.
Over 70 percent of DCSD teachers participated in the TELL survey, compared to an average of only 55 percent across the rest of the state. Of those who participated, 80 percent strongly agreed that “school leadership consistently supports teachers” in Douglas County, and 85 percent strongly agreed that “overall, their school is a good place to work and learn.”
School Board President John Carson added that the district has worked with teachers and looked for their input. They also tested the evaluation system with a pilot program before the School Board unanimously approved it to be implemented district-wide next year.
Both teachers are members of the teachers union, which has fought to reverse some of the key reform measures put in place by the school board.
Holladay was also a union leader heavily involved in the collective bargaining negotiations last year.
Carson believes that the real reason teachers are frustrated and leaving is because DCSD stopped paying union officers and collecting dues last year, a move that has saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars that will go back into the classroom and towards a new compensation package for teachers – some of whom could see up to a 9 percent raise.
“What’s really at issue here though is that we took money away from the union and we’re giving it directly to teachers,” Carson told 9News. “We’re not paying union officers’ salaries anymore with taxpayer dollars.”
In terms of academic performance of students, DCSD has continued to excel. Last year’s TCAP scores for grades 3-10 showed 80 percent of students proficient or advanced in Reading and 70 percent in Math – among the best in the state. The district has also decreased its dropout rate, has an improving remediation rate, and has a high graduation rate.