Keeping teachers is struggle for Elizabeth School District

District works to fill roles and increase salaries

The Elizabeth School District (ESD) is among the lowest-paying school districts in the Denver metro area. Recently, the district worked to increase their entering teacher salary by nearly $2,500 from $37,502 to $40,000. Despite these efforts, ESD still struggles to keep up with many neighboring school districts.
“When I started here 10 years ago it was $29,400,” said Kin Shuman, ESD human resources director. “I’m confident that with the support of our board and the community we will continue to make great strides in support of our students.”
ESC is not alone in its struggle. According to a Fox31 article from April 26, 2022, first-year Colorado public school teachers are among the nation’s lowest paid in the field. They cite the average starting 2021 salary at $35,724, nearly $8.5k lower than the national average.
Starting teacher salaries (with bachelor’s degree) for Elizabeth School District and nearby districts (in order from highest to lowest pay):
• Cherry Creek School District (2023-2024) $58,710 (tentative)
• Jeffco Public Schools (2022-2023) $50,000
• Strasburg School Distric31J (2023-2024) $46,125
• Bennett 29J (2023-2024) $46,000
• Douglas County School District (2023-2024) $45,209
• Adams/Arapahoe 27J (2023-2024) $45,002
• Elizabeth School District (2023-2024) $40,000
Starting teacher salaries (with bachelor’s degree) for Elbert County school districts (in order from highest to lowest pay)
• Elizabeth School District (2023-2024) $40,000
• Agate School District #300 (2023-2024) $40,000
• Calhan School District (2023-2024) $40,000
• Big Sandy School District 100J $38,500
• Elbert School District #200 (2022-2023) $36,000
• Kiowa C2 — Salary Schedules are unavailable. Colorado Department of Education lists their 2021-2022 average teacher salary at $38,522
The lower pay is a part of the driving force behind the exodus of teachers from ESD to nearby school districts. As of June 20, the district needed 10 elementary school teachers, three middle school teachers, and six high school teachers. In addition to teachers, Elizabeth High School is seeking a new head softball coach, assistant baseball coach and assistant track coach. The district is also in need of three maintenance and custodial staff and two bus drivers. They’re also looking to fill 16 support service positions and two security positions.
“Our funding is much lower than our neighboring districts. Teachers in some districts make 50k or more. Teachers in our district make 40k,” said Superintendent Snowberger at a meet-and-greet event at Singing Hills Elementary on May 11. “We’ve had a number of open staffing positions. We have been to some degree a training ground for some. They’ll come here, they’ll get their experience, and then they become very attractive to a neighboring district who’s paying sometimes $20,000 more a year. How can you begrudge a young teacher who can go next door and make $20,000 more in our society and the economy we’re in today?”
So far, for the 2023-2024 school year, the Elizabeth School District is replacing 30% of the teaching staff is for this fall.
“These are teachers leaving a great school district in a beautiful and growing community,” said Shuman. “Fortunately we have a leadership team in Dan Snowberger, our superintendent, and Bill Dallas, our assistant superintendent, who are the right people to lead our district into the future.”
As a result of the lack of teachers, there is a need for substitutes in the Elizabeth School District, as well as around Colorado. In some schools around the state, there have been instances where one teacher will be responsible for two classrooms.
“There is a huge, desperate need for substitutes,” said Stephanie Chesla for Denver Public Schools. “It is something that has become a really serious problem, especially since COVID.”
The Elizabeth School District is currently in need of three new substitute teachers for the 2023-2024 school year. For the 2022-2023 school year, a day’s pay for substitutes starts at $150. Douglas County School District also starts at $150 a day while Cherry Creek School District starts at $210 a day.

District challenges — teacher retention

In an email correspondence with Shuman from June 20, he shared three challenges that the district faces regarding teacher retention and the teacher shortage.
1. Neighboring districts such as Douglas County Schools and Cherry Creek Schools have been able to offer significantly higher compensation to their teachers as a result of additional revenue they receive from the passage of mill levy overrides in their communities. As a result their salaries have been consistently from $10,000 to $20,000 higher than ours for similar jobs. Fortunately, in 2018 our citizens passed our first mill levy override which allowed us to close the gap in a small way. We are grateful for the support of the community, however as we have increased our salaries, surrounding districts have increased theirs, thus largely maintaining most of the competitive gap between them and us.
2. Our distance from the metro area and our lack of available housing coupled with the compensation challenges have combined to impact our ability to hire and retain teachers. The growth of the community and increased availability of housing may help. In addition, the costs of transportation to Elizabeth for our teachers can take a significant portion of available income.
3. Fewer students are choosing a career in education. Teaching, while a very rewarding profession, is also a very demanding one. Most telling are the annual teacher job fairs that we have attended this year as opposed to prior years. There is a glaring difference in the number of teachers looking for jobs at these job fairs. I would venture to say that attendance is significantly less than half of that of prior years. Coupled with a smaller pool of available candidates, a higher number of teachers are leaving the profession through retirement and starting new careers. This is an issue for all school districts.

Erasing public stigma around education

In addition to the lower teacher salaries being a driving force for the exodus of teachers from the Elizabeth School District, the general teacher shortage may be a result of a greater cultural shift and growing stigmas tied to the field of education.
“I believe there is a public stigma against education and educators. When I became a teacher in the early 2000s I was proud to tell people what I did, and most people responded in a positive way,” said Dr. Bill Dallas, assistant superintendent for the Elizabeth School District. “Presently, I hear far more negative comments and narratives around education and educators. Overall I feel these sorts of narratives are harmful to the profession and discourage youth from pursuing a career in education.”
To apply for open positions with the Elizabeth School District, visit
For a list of average teacher salaries per school district, visit
To read “Starting pay for Colorado teachers nearly lowest in U.S.,” visit
Elizabeth School District, education, teacher pay, Elbert County, Colorado


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