Thousands of S.C. teachers left their positions last school year

Updated: Feb. 1, 2020 at 9:59 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Communities are growing , more schools are being added and that increases the need for more teachers. But it's a career notorious for low paying jobs.

Bills to reform education are going through the House and the Senate. There has also been an ongoing effort to recruit teachers and keep them in our state.

In South Carolina, about 60,000 teachers have committed to make an impact in students lives. But, through a Live 5 Investigation, we found thousands of teachers left their positions this last school year.

“It certainly is an alarming number,” said Todd Scholl, the coordinator of Communications and Program Development with the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA). “If we’re talking about a temperature of a child, it would be a fever.”

Every year, CERRA produces an Educator Supply and Demand Report. It essentially tracks how many teachers have left the profession and why.

"I think the entire country is experiencing problems with teacher retention," Scholl said. "Teachers across the country, I think, are feeling undervalued and unappreciated."

According to the CERRA report, 6,650 teachers left their positions during or after the 2018-2019 school year. The report states 40% of teachers who left did so for "personal/family" reasons as reported by districts.

Scholl adds a red flag, they came across when putting together their most recent report, is that 36% of teachers who left last year were in the first five years of their profession.

One local charter school is seeing the exodus of teachers firsthand. 16 teachers, at Mevers School of Excellence in Berkeley County, turned in their resignation letters in the first several months of the 2019-2020 school year; 13 of them resigned in October alone.

“It’s really, really challenging to have an excellent school if you don’t have excellent teacher retention,” said Greg Stickel, Mevers’ new principal. “The main focus right now is on climate and culture, making sure that teachers have a voice and making sure teachers feel supported.”

According to Charter Schools USA, the pay and bonus options for Mevers' teachers are in line with other district's schools.

“Over the past year, we’ve re-evaluated our leadership roles both at the school and state level and have made some changes,” said Leah Dellicarpini, Charter Schools USA’s Interim State Director for the Carolinas. “It was unfortunate that we lost some educators in the beginning of the year, but we are happy to say that nearly all of the open positions are filled with certified teachers.”

At last check, only two positions at Mevers are currently served by long-term substitutes. The rest of those 16 vacancies appear to be filled.

"I think just trying to bring back a message of positivity, having fun and one of our goals here is to make sure that every teacher comes to school with a smile and leaves with a smile," Stickel says.

Experts say it shouldn't just be a change within school walls, though, state leaders need to budget bigger change.

"I think the governor's proposals are very encouraging," Scholl says. "Hopefully the Senate and House will follow through and do things that are necessary to improve teacher recruitment and retention. It still remains to be unseen if they are going to do that but we are hopeful that is going to happen."

By investing in our teachers, Scholl says, we are investing in bright futures of South Carolina children.

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