Savannah-Chatham County officials say teacher retention rate is where it should be

Savannah-Chatham County officials say teacher retention rate is where it should be

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The latest data from Savannah-Chatham County Public School Systems says their attrition rate is holding steady near 15 percent each year. According to Director of Employment, Dr. Heather Bilton, their goal is to keep it below 17 percent.

“When people hear Savannah-Chatham is hiring 400 teachers, all of these alarms go off, but it’s really just an average number for us,” Bilton said.

With 55 schools and nearly 3,000 teachers in the district, Dr. Bilton says 400 teachers is about right. She says the numbers are not completely telling, because not all teachers leave; some get promoted or retire.

“Education in general has a [shape of a} ‘U.’ We have a lot of early career and we have a lot of mid-late career," Dr. Bilton said. "We know that at any given time, we could lose 10 percent of our teaching force, because they are at that 25 to 30-year mark.”

Carley Krisnisky is one of the 400-something teachers not returning to Savannah-Chatham County classrooms this month.

“You know, you never want to quit something. As a teacher in that classroom, those kids were my priority, and it was very difficult to not renew my contract,” Krisnisky said.

Krisnisky believs teachers getting out of their classrooms or leaving for other districts is a problem nationwide, not just in Chatham County.

“I do not think it is unique to Savannah-Chatham. I know that they really are focusing on new teachers and alternate pathway teachers. It’s just a matter of a lack of resources,” Krisnisky said.

According to research, the district says the first five years of teaching is the hardest. That’s why they set up support systems like the THRIVE program for new teachers.

“They are not just squares and circles and etc. They have a lot of training. We invest heavily in our teachers, and when we lose a teacher, we lose a lot.”

Retention rates have impacts on a school district. Both women agree the biggest impact is on the students.

“The students get to know who you are. When it’s brand new faces every single year, it’s difficult for students to feel comfortable.”

Friday was the tenth day of school.

Dr. Bilton says they can now look at their projected number of students and how many are actively enrolled, and start to shift teachers to different schools based off of need. Then, they will evaluate vacancies or shortages if needed.

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