Franklin County Schools: Why Teachers Are Leaving

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At a Dec. 6 workshop to address the teacher shortage, the Franklin County School Board heard from teachers representing the Franklin County Education Association who revealed FCEA survey results indicated teachers’ low morale resulted from issues ranging from feeling unsupported by the board and community, to students’ loss of social skills trailing upon pandemic distance learning, to needing to find their own substitute teacher when illness prevented them from being in the classroom. The board also learned about the “iteach” program offering a possible solution to teacher recruitment.

North Middle School history teacher Dwayne Thames cited several changes teachers wanted to see. Thames acknowledged abolishing state testing was “out of the boards purview,” but he insisted not grading teachers on student test scores was a practice that could be adopted. Teachers also wanted more resources for students reading below grade level and more guidance counselors and school social workers to deal with mental health and behavioral issues. “We went from two to none [social workers],” Thames said. “You put it on us as teachers to deal with and it’s not our area of expertise. It’s beyond our ability to help. We need you to help us.”

Chiming in on the problem of student apathy and students who fail to graduate, Campora Family Resource Center Director Eric Vanzant said, “We need to sit down with these kids and find out what’s going on.”

Vanzant also commented on teachers’ lack of enthusiasm and unwillingness to speak out about problems, “They feel like it doesn’t matter what they say … you aren’t going to listen.” One teacher told Vanzant he saw no point in filling out another survey, as past surveys never yielded results.

Thames proposed board members visit classrooms and not just at schools in their district, since wide cultural differences existed among the county schools.

Franklin County High School chemistry teacher Lena Clark objected to the perception teachers joined the profession to get two months off during the summer. “Teachers feel called and want to make a difference in students’ lives,” Clark said. Regarding inadequate teacher salaries, Clark maintained, “If the community perception is changed about our district and schools, if we change the way people see us, they may become more supportive of us” and willing to support a property tax increase to fund teacher salary increases. “Can we work together to change the perception?” Thames challenged the board.

Thames praised the board for providing “things like technology…providing stuff,” but he pointed out giving students an assignment using their laptops was pointless if they didn’t have internet access. The board “needs to advocate to the community and county commission for the children’s needs.”

Director of School Stanley Bean identified the areas that needed to be addressed based on teachers’ input: support, apathy, and morale; getting students up to reading level; social and mental health; pay; and community perception. The board discussed holding a January workshop to develop an action plan. A possible technology fix to the substitute problem would auto dial substitutes when a teacher phoned in sick.

The “iteach” program outlined by company spokesperson Alice Rolli provides a pathway for community members with four-year degrees to teach while pursuing certification. Once the enrollee passes the praxis examine demonstrating subject matter knowledge and takes the first two of seven online education courses, “iteach” grants them a “job embedded” teaching license so they can teach while they finish course work. Once the enrollee receives a job, they begin paying back the $4,050 program fee, interest free. The school system bears no cost, unless they offer to pay part of an enrollee’s expenses in return for staying with the school system for a set number of years.

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