Anderson School District One culture keeps teachers in the classroom

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By David Meade
Anderson School District One, along with school districts across the state, and nation, are finding it increasingly difficult to fill teaching positions.
During the monthly meeting of the School Board Tuesday, District One Director of Personnel Becky Brady said there is a “teacher crisis” with “a lack of teachers available.”
She presented information reflecting a decreasing number of new teachers, an increasing number of first year teachers that do not return and other reasons for the shortage in available teachers including retirees and the TERI program.
According to Brady, South Carolina college and university teacher education programs produced only 1,898 new teachers during the 2015-16 school years. The number has decreased each year since 2012-13, she said.
The number of new hires coming from an in-state teacher preparation program has dropped by twenty-five percent over the past five years.
The number of SC students graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree eligible for teacher certification has dropped by thirty percent over the last four years.
Brady said that approximately 6500 teachers in the state did not return to their same position for the 2016-17 school year. Of those, 4,900 are no longer teaching in any public school district in the state, she said.
Of the teachers that left, twenty-five percent took positions in another SC school district.
Approximately that same amount cited personal reasons for leaving, including being frustrated, dissatisfied, overwhelmed or unprepared.
Eighteen percent were retirees, or completed their TERI period, or were not rehired.
Twenty-two percent of first year teachers left their positions and left teaching by the end of the school year.
At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, school districts across the state had 550 teaching positions that were not filled.
The number of graduates who completed a SC teacher education program during the 2016-17 school year also declined. Just four years earlier, the number was 2,400.
The TERI Program and related earning limitations are also contributing to the teacher shortage.
The Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive (TERI) is a deferred retirement option plan that allows eligible employees with 28 years of service to retire, but continue to work.
It was designed as a way to retain older and experienced teachers to help with the teacher shortage.
TERI is designed for employees who retire from the South Carolina Retirement Systems, but want to continue employment with the agency and retain the same positions they held prior to entering the program. Participation in the TERI Program is generally for a period not to exceed five years, but it is not guaranteed employment for the specified program period.
Enrollees in the program after June 30, 2012 must end their participation within five (5) years or by June 30, 2018, whichever is earlier.
There is also an earning limitation of $10,000, however it does not apply if the employee entered TERI or retired before January 2, 2013.
For retirements on or after January 2, 2013, a retiree may return to work after being retired for 30 days and receive a benefit subject to a $10,000 earnings limitation; however, the $10,000 limitation does not apply if the retiree was at least 62 years of age at retirement or has returned to certain elected or appointed positions.
According to Brady, AD1 has several outstanding teachers affected negatively by the earning limitation.
District One has also lost a number of teachers due to the TERI program ending and/or teachers choosing to retire.
Brady said many of those are in the areas of Science, Math and English.
On the postitive side, Brady said Anderson District One has a turnover rate of less than one percent for first year teachers and less than six percent for all teachers.
“We don’t lose teachers,” Brady said.”This is because of your support,” she told the Board.”We have a stable board that works so hard for our teachers.”
She added that District One “works very hard for our first year teachers” and that giving young teachers support is critical.
Brady also said that District One has collaborative partnerships with a number of universities to find “the very best educators.
Brady said field placements, interns and student practicums are wonderful for recruitment.
She told the board that the District One Administration does an outstanding job of identifying early retirees, on early recruitment and professional staff hiring flexibility.
Recruiting fairs also help, she said.
The district will have upcoming recruiting fairs at Anderson University and North Greenville University and Georgia and just completed one at Clemson University.
District One also has a teacher cadet program active in all three high schools and will soon add to the middle school level.
District One also has a collaboration with Clemson University placing a teacher resident with a Master Teacher for a year in a District One classroom.
District One is also participating in a forum including Greenville County, Oconee County, Anderson County Districts and Pickens County offering an opportunity to network with other educators.
District One also recruits teachers through job postings, word of mouth, newspaper and social media, Brady said.