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Special Report: Teacher Turnover

Updated: Tuesday, April 21 2015, 11:17 AM EDT
Special Report: Teacher Turnover story image
An alarming number of North Carolina teachers are leaving their jobs, .and some believe it's the result of low pay and little reward.

Turnover means teachers are moving, leaving the school district for a variety of reasons. The downside is, school systems are losing experienced qualified teachers at a cost.

Ali Trainor is one of those teachers that's leaving. "I would say that this past year was really kind of that final push," says Trainor.

The 3rd grade instructor at Asheville's Isaac Dickson Elementary loves teaching, but thinks her profession gets no respect when it comes to pay. "Feeling slightly disrespected in our profession. You know, maybe even not feeling that people are not honoring the fact that teaching is a profession," she says.

North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction says more teachers are leaving.  Its annual teacher turnover report shows13,616 teachers leaving the profession in 2012-2013. Out of 95,028 teachers statewide, that's a 14.3% turnover rate.  A significant increase from a year earlier.

Associate Superintendent Susanne Swanger says, "I'm hearing through some of our instructional coaches, our principals, our mentors who are out and about that some of our new teachers are leaving and relocating to other states with higher salaries."

Buncombe County School Administrators say they feel fortunate the turnover has not affected their ability to attract and retain good teachers. "We still know that the quality of life in Buncombe County and Western North Carolina is a draw for many people who want to live here," says Swanger.

But the turnover does appear to be rising. A look at the 5 year trend for Buncombe, Henderson and Asheville City Schools shows last year's turnover rate is above the 5 year average, for all 3 school systems.

Trainor and her husband, Ty, a former Teacher of the Year at Buncombe School's Johnston Elementary, are both leaving at the end of this year to teach at a private school in Santiago, Chile. "To move internationally with our family was a dream of our family," says 4th grade instructor, Ty Trainor.

Trainor says they were motivated by money, doubling their salaries after going 5 years without any significant pay raise. "With what has happened with some of the raise in insurance costs and not earning some of the other A.B.C. bonuses I think it was called, technically I make less money than I used to," he says.

North Carolina, by law, sets starting teacher pay, which right now is $30,800 a year.  Local County Commissioners are free to increase that pay with supplements.  According to Buncombe Schools, the minimum teacher salary in 2013 was $32,740. The maximum was $76,134. The average was $44,168.  School administrators say they have no problem filling vacancies. "Especially in the areas of Elementary Teacher positions.  Principals will tell me that they'll have 100 applicants for one position," says Swanger.

But teachers sour over low salaries. "It's sad.  This was not my first choice to leave Asheville," says Trainor.  Fear rising turnover, could be costly for schools trying to keep quality in the classroom. "Hopefully, the Governor's initiatives will make teachers feel like they can remain in North Carolina and teach for out public school system," says Swanger.

"I certainly think that the people that I work with and I know that my wife works with deserve to be treated with respect and appreciation in regards to pay," says Trainor.
The Trainors leave for their new international school in about a month. Meanwhile, Governor McCrory has just proposed a 2% increase for teacher salaries.Special Report: Teacher Turnover
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