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Ogden School District's teacher turnover

OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - The Ogden School district lost 15 percent of its teachers last year, the question is why?
OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - The Ogden School district lost 15 percent of its teachers last year, the question is why?

"There are a lot of factors that come into play with this." said Zac Williams, the district's communication director.

The district is trying to get to the bottom of the problem. In 2008 it only lost 9 percent of teachers.  That number is already higher than the turnover rate reported in other districts. However in 2013 teacher turnover went after 15 percent of teachers voluntarily left.

Williams told ABC4 Utah there are three main reasons for a mass exodus, one is retirement. He said a hiring boom in the 1980s has resulted in a substantial number of teachers reaching retirement age.

Second, as the economy improves some teacher have felt free to look for jobs that offer better opportunity, pay and flexibility.

Williams said the third reason for an increase in teacher turnover may be changes within the district itself.

"It's tough to be a teacher because there are a lot of expectations to raise a students proficiency," Williams said.

In Ogden that is a priority.

"We had several schools, elementaries that were in the bottom ten of the state," Williams said.  "We are very grateful to the teachers that have worked hard to bring that proficiency up."

That is a tough job in an area challenged by poverty.  In fact, more than 75 percent of the district's student population requires reduced and free lunch services.  A high percentage also speaks English as a second language.

However, districts across the state share those challenges and the Ogden School District is still losing at least 4 percent more teachers than surround districts each year.

"The Ogden School District has made some substantial changes," Williams said.

Not all of them are popular.

Marilyn Brown taught first grade in the district for 30 years.  Last year she retired, but she said the stress of the job often made teaching tough.

"The atmosphere between administrators and teachers, I've seen a change in that," she said.  "I think the atmosphere has become more difficult, more pressure."

She is not alone. Some parents and teachers have openly criticized Superintendent Brad Smith for an increase in teaching hours, requiring intrusive supervision, and cutting staff.  In fact, told ABC4 Utah they are recovering after dozens of media specialists were laid off last year.

"When those things are cut it puts more of a load on teachers because you want to still keep up that high standard, but when you don't have the support staff to help you do that, then of course it becomes your job," Brown said.

Brown said she enjoyed her job and while she cannot speak for all teachers, she may understand why some have jumped ship.

"Maybe they do it because they want to go where they feel success," she said.

Meanwhile, some teachers told ABC4 Utah the district has made positive changes.  Smith can be credited for them in part.  One is a team teaching environment that allows educators to work together more in order to impact their students.  The other according to some teachers is a recent technology upgrade that they said has dramatically improved reading scores.



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