HAMLET — The latest personnel report for Richmond County Schools reveals a wave of resignations only partially offset by new hires.
Executive Director of Human Resources Julian Carter said the school district “currently has 22 job vacancies, with 20 certified and two classified positions.”
Carter said that certified jobs are not limited to teacher positions and the district website is continuously updated to reflect the number of open spots.
By comparison, neighboring Scotland County Schools has 31 vacant certified positions posted on its district website.
The RCS report lists the names of 21 certified teachers who tendered resignations and only three teachers retiring, an indication that Scotland County Schools has a bigger retention problem than RCS has.
Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman said the not insignificant difference is due to to several positive changes in this district.
“Part of that is the work of Julian Carter and our principals,” Goodman said. “He’s gone to all the job fairs to find people to fill the jobs, the principals have taken our recruits kayaking, we’ve had cook-outs. Young people just aren’t staying in jobs long the way they used to.”
While the county’s number of resigning teachers is still high compared with the state average, it appears to be leveling off somewhat. The reasons teachers resign, Goodman said, are various.
“It’s just a combination of things,” she said. “Retirements, relocations because ‘my husband got a job somewhere else,’ or they might be first-year teachers who are just trying it out and discover it’s not for them. Maybe they haven’t been successful and they know they they probably won’t be rehired next year.”
Asked what would give a first-year teacher the impression he or she is unsuccessful, Goodman explained that it is based on North Carolina’s evaluation instrument.
“North Carolina has a strong evaluation process, and at the end of the year you have the summative evaluation with a rubric we are all trained to use and understand,” Goodman said. “There are generally no surprises, they haven’t been successful, haven’t grown enough. And it wouldn’t be fair to the kids to bring back an ineffective teacher.”
That led to the question of what Goodman thinks of the evaluation instrument’s accuracy and quality.
“The evaluation system that all North Carolina teachers are evaluated on is a set of standards that we believe North Carolina believes all teachers should be successful in to show that they are being successful,” Goodman said. “Teachers are leaders, teachers know their content. It’s a big domain of what teaching encompasses. I think it’s a comprehensive model. The rubric starts with a self assessment, conversations are had, and again — every teacher is trained on this instrument and knows how they will be assessed.”
Principals using the instrument to evaluate teachers tick off boxes under standards and categories throughout the school year, and test scores can greatly influence what boxes get ticked.
“Some of the things are not observable and a teacher might bring in evidence for you,” Goodman said. “She might bring in logs she kept, logs where students have tracked their own data. It’s more than a snapshot single look at a classroom. The principals are trained to use this instrument. I think it’s best practices of teaching.”
Carter said that even though some other nearby counties offer more incentives to keep highly qualified teachers in their classrooms, the teachers who choose Richmond County are devoted to their careers.
“We have a wonderful district, and are very good to our teachers, and they like to work for us,” he said. “But, when you look at Richmond County Schools’ supplement, we’re certainly less than some in our surrounding areas.”
Carter, like Goodman, offered several reasons the district loses teachers.
“The main reasons we have these job openings are due to teacher retirement, non-rehires, better job opportunities for spouses and family responsibilities that result in relocation. Then, you have a few that are leaving the teaching profession altogether, as other careers are less stressful and pay more.”
Carter attributes the increase in teachers who do stay in the system to Goodman’s dedication in promoting a positive environment for educators and students.
“Dr. Goodman’s done a phenomenal job in trying to make Richmond County Schools a teacher-friendly district,” he said. “For teachers right out of college, we have the Beginning Teachers Program that Bess Shuler leads. Each first through third-year educator receives training each month to make the transition easier in addition to a mentor who meets with them each week.
“Four professional development days are also built into the Richmond County Schools calendar. Celebrating the hard work these teachers do is also a priority, with Teacher Appreciation Week, Everyday Heroes and the end-of year staff appreciation picnic being (in) just a few days, we try to thank them for all they do.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.