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Gwinnett County Schools working to engage, keep teachers amid worsening retention rate

The school system is working on solving the problems teachers say are keeping them from doing their jobs.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Teachers are saying enough is enough, especially in Gwinnett County. 

They are frustrated, packing up and leaving— getting out of teaching altogether, or moving to other schools and school districts where they hope conditions will be better, educators said.

Gwinnett County’s administrators are already working on a plan to stop the hemorrhaging.

It was this past Thursday when Gwinnett County’s school board heard the findings of a consultant the school system hired. The report found that from 2019 to 2022, 13.25% of Gwinnett County teachers had quit or transferred, compared with the statewide rate of 8.9%, and the nationwide rate of 10.9%.

One of the reasons, according to the study, is that teachers say administrators just don’t communicate with them.

Stephen Murray with the Georgia Association of Educators said Monday that that’s exactly what Gwinnett teachers tell him.

“When they have an opinion, they have to deal with retaliation,” Murray said, “and they are walking on eggshells. They make them want to go elsewhere.”

But the superintendent’s office says administrators are already tackling the problems head-on, writing 11Alive Monday evening, “We are listening to our teachers, and seeking their input on how we can address their concerns and meet their needs,” and convince them not to leave.

This past May, Gwinnett County’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, Lee Allen, quit, saying that even with the bonuses that came with the award, and even with his respect and fondness for the students and for his colleagues, he could not overcome the obstacles that he and other Gwinnett teachers were facing just to do their jobs.

Allen said Monday that he now teaches in another school district in Georgia, and couldn’t be happier.

The Gwinnett schools’ spokesperson says administrators are being proactive to keep teachers. 

“The challenges the district faces won’t be solved overnight,” he wrote in an email Monday evening. “It will require a multi-year approach that is already underway.”

Find the full statement at the bottom of this story.

Here is the full statement from the superintendent’s office to 11Alive on teacher attrition and retention:

Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) is committed to recruiting, hiring and maintaining qualified, passionate, and dedicated educators. We believe our teachers are the best in the state as evidence by the thousands of college and career ready students who graduate from GCPS schools every year and the numerous state, national and international awards GCPS educators routinely earn.

With that said, we are aware of the hiring and retention challenges our school district and others around the nation are facing, and we are attacking them head-on.

GCPS has invested time and resources to develop a sustainable recruitment and retention plan based on our district’s needs in this post-pandemic environment. We are listening to our teachers and seeking their input on how we can address their concerns and meet their needs. In addition, the district recently commissioned a study to evaluate its recruiting, hiring and retention processes.

The final report, which was presented to the Gwinnett Board of Education last week at its regularly scheduled January work session, identified areas of need and actionable steps to address them.

After reviewing the report and listening to teacher feedback, GCPS is working to:

· Increase the number of recruiting experts and professionals to assist in the hiring of a highly qualified diverse staff

· Improve and expand and its recruiting and marketing team, tools and footprint

· Evaluate how the district compensates teacher leaders

· Investigate ways to compensate teachers who serve in schools with low retention rates

The challenges the district faces won’t be solved overnight. It will require a multi-year approach that is already underway.

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