Richland County School District One moving two teachers to elementary which lost half its teachers last year

That 50 percent turnover rate leads all other schools by more than eight percent.
Published: Oct. 27, 2023 at 5:34 PM EDT
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RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - The high-profile relocation of teachers in Richland School District One includes moving two teachers to an elementary school which leads the district in turnover rate and transfers.

Richland One Board Member Robert Lominack published the data in September on his blog, showing Burton-Pack Elementary lost 13 of its 26 teachers in the 2022-2023 school year.

That 50 percent turnover rate leads all other schools by more than eight percent.

The data breaks down school data by number of teacher positions, number of resignations, and the reasons for leaving. In a blog post, he wrote the district administration provided the data.

The data also shows Burton-Pack led all other schools in the number of teacher transfers, coming in at five.

A WIS report on a leaked recording of Burton-Pack Principal Ashton Jones this spring included concerns from a Richland 1 employee about transfers from the school as a result of its culture.

“At the beginning, she planted the seed of negativity, of ‘if you don’t want to be here I’m not going hold you here if you want to transfer’ and then as all of these other negative things started taking place, people have actually been putting in for transfers,” she said.

In the course of report, several Burton-Pack teachers reached out to WIS expressing support for Jones.

Teacher Demetrea Cooper sent a statement reading in part:

“...The principal Ms. Jones has been dealing with disgruntled, insubordinate, rude, abrasive staff since her arrival and the departure of the previous principal...”

The 20-minute recording exposed clear divisions between Jones and the staff and included a threat from Jones to report staff to the district’s human resources.

At the time of the original story, district spokesperson Karen York sent a statement saying the recording was “addressed” and provided a statement on behalf of Superintendent Craig Witherspoon:

“In Richland One, we promote and expect a positive climate and culture across the district that seeks to improve student achievement and student outcomes. That effort should be done in a positive manner. As a part of that positive climate and culture, any employee is able to express concerns without fear of retaliation. In that spirit, we address issues and concerns that are brought to our attention on a regular basis.”

WIS reached back out to the district on Thursday, requesting more information on how the recording was addressed, why the school led the district in teacher turnover, what was being done about the culture and if a leadership change was being considered.

York sent the following statement:

“As I indicated to you in May, Dr. Witherspoon said the matter regarding the recording has been addressed. Regarding whether changes need to be made at any school in the district, various data points are reviewed annually for all of our schools and plans for improvement are implemented as they are deemed to be needed.”

York later sent WIS a subsequent statement, saying how the recording was handled is a personnel matter. She also emphasized teachers left the school for a variety of reasons, including retirement.

Jones declined to comment, deferring to the district.

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