Fewer Wake County teachers have resigned during this school year compared with the same time last year, when school leaders were calling the increase in departures “alarming.”
A total of 528 of Wake’s 10,000 teachers resigned between July 2014 and April 2015, a 14-percent drop from the 612 resignations during the same period last year. In April 2014, Wake school leaders were holding news conferences and calling for teacher pay raises because of the 41 percent jump in resignations from the 433 the year before.
Last year’s resignation figures also became a campaign issue as Democrats cited the increase as part of their successful bid to gain control of the Wake County Board of Commissioners.
But as school leaders reviewed the latest figures this week, they tried to take credit for this year’s improvement. School board member Bill Fletcher said the school board should get an “attaboy” for actions he said have helped improve the working climate in Wake.
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“You can interpret it to say we’ve made a positive gain with the actions of this board in improving relationships with our teachers,” Fletcher said, drawing affirmation from his colleagues. “I think we made some good decisions as a board to reverse that trend.”
Fletcher cited school board actions such as approving a $3.75 million plan for local teacher pay raises and restoring locally some of the job protections that had been eliminated when the General Assembly phased out career status, also called tenure.
Fletcher downplayed the role that legislators may have had in reducing the resignations by raising teacher pay statewide. Instead, he and other school board members said they’re asking this year for a $48.3 million increase in county funding because the General Assembly isn’t doing enough to raise teacher pay.
“I would simply ask our community this question,” Fletcher said. “Can we afford to dismiss our responsibility to pay competitive salaries to teachers and staff just because the legislature chooses not to?”
But Terry Stoops, director of education research studies for the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank in Raleigh, said it’s premature for the school board to take credit or shift blame for any change in the numbers. He noted Wake’s data showing that the top reasons teachers cited for resigning this school year were family relocation, teaching in another North Carolina school district, career change, child care and retiring to keep full benefits.
“Teacher turnover is the product of two factors that neither the state or the school board has much control over: Working conditions in the school and the personal circumstances of the teacher and his or her family,” he said.
Despite this year’s drop, school board members said they’re concerned how the number of resignations has risen from the 251 who quit between July 2009 and April 2010. But Stoops said the increase may be more reflective of how the recession caused teachers to stay in the classroom longer five years ago.
Hui: 919-829-4534; Twitter: @nckhui