Teachers are not fleeing DeKalb County schools.
That bit of non-news got a special mention at the DeKalb school board meeting earlier this week. Sensitive about the district’s reputation, board members and administrators made a point of underscoring the normalcy of teacher resignations this year.
At the end of the school year, 517 teachers decided to leave, including 161 teachers who retired, chief human resources officer Tekshia Ward-Smith reported at Monday’s meeting.
“I think it would be good for the public to know the actual percentage of employees who are remaining in the district,” prompted interim superintendent Michael Thurmond.
“Yes, sir. Ninety-six percent of the employees who were offered contracts signed and returned them,” Ward-Smith said.
The past year brought plenty of bad news for DeKalb teachers—furloughs, larger class sizes, a downgrade of DeKalb’s accreditation, administrative changes, and uncertainty in system’s leadership.
Teachers have expressed frustration at board meetings and town hall sessions. In fact, during the public comment period at Monday’s meeting, a teacher pleaded for the end of furlough days, which she said were just work without pay as teachers still need to prepare for their classes.
Parents openly have worried that the turmoil will drive away experienced teachers to other, more stable districts. So in this case, no news really is good news.
The district has 334 vacancies, which is also normal for early June, said Ward-Smith. “We generally contract about 500 between the end of the school year and the beginning of the school year,” she added.
Board member Joyce Morley added her own positive spin on the teacher departures that have occurred.
“I think it’s also important to recognize that there are many people who leave, but there are many people who come back,” she said. “Not only do people exit the system, there’s an exodus, but there is a return, for various reasons.”