For the second year in a row, the Elizabeth School District is hanging a help-wanted sign on its front door to replace 22 percent of its faculty. The number of teachers resigning from the district this year is consistent with last year's resignation rate and down from 30 percent in 2013.
For many Elizabeth teachers, working in the district is their first job out of college, and out of the 29 teachers confirmed to be leaving the district this year, 17 were hired within the last two years.
“They get their training here and after a couple of years move on to higher-paying districts,” said Kin Shuman, human resources director for the Elizabeth School District. “There is a definite disruption to our students with this level of turnover. It breaks up continuity, and makes it hard to keep teaching teams together.”
Exit interviews conducted by the district have identified key factors contributing to the turnover.
According to Shuman, most teachers enjoy working in the Elizabeth School District and would like to stay, but those leaving for new jobs primarily cite a lack of affordable housing in Elbert County and the availability of higher-paying jobs in nearby districts with a shorter commute.
The range of salaries in the district starts at $29,400 for an entry-level teacher and caps at $50,700, which makes it difficult for the Elizabeth School District to compete with neighboring districts such as Douglas County where salaries range from $34,000 for new teachers and cap at $94,000. In addition, many teachers and staff commute from Castle Rock or Parker.
“Because they don't live locally, they don't feel as though they are part of the community. They want that,” Shuman said.
At an average cost of $7,000 to recruit and bring aboard a new teacher, the district will spend more than $200,000 to replenish its classrooms for the 2015-16 school year.
Turnover rates for teachers in the district exceed Colorado's average of around 15 percent, but are consistent with a growing trend nationally. According to a 2014 report by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the turnover rate among teachers nationally is around 20 percent, up from 9 percent in 2009.
Given the district's current financial situation, it is unlikely the school board will have much flexibility on the issue of pay.
According to data presented at the June 8 board meeting by superintendent Douglas Bissonette, the district spent an average of $6,888 per student during the 2014-15 school year, down from an inflation-adjusted $7,416 in 2007-08.
Over the same period, a net of 86 full- and part-time positions were eliminated, the majority of the cuts coming from administrative and non-teaching staff. Twenty teacher positions were eliminated in four schools (13.8 percent), which is nearly parallel to the decline in enrollment (16.5 percent).
In the 2007-08 school year, 2,535 students attended district schools. At the end of the 2014-15 school year, enrollment declined by 413 students to 2,122.