Teachers leaving jobs at a high rate; retaining efforts implemented by area schools

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Data from the U.S. Labor Department show teachers and other public education employees are leaving their jobs at a record high rate. The shortage of teachers affecting school districts everywhere, including in Wisconsin.

The Green Bay Area Public School District says they're keeping an eye on the national trend.

"I think that it's important that we watch what's happening nationwide, because we know that sometimes can impact Wisconsin and Green Bay, but we're really fortunate to have a very stable workforce in the Green Bay area, and that translates to teachers as well," Jean Marsch, human resources officer for Green Bay Area Public Schools.

Educator turnover for the district during the 2017-2018 school year was 4.66 percent. The district says it's not considered excessive until turnovers are higher than 10 percent.

Educator turnover does not include teachers who are retiring.

Marsch says they've implemented support for new educators, wellness practices and a nice salary and benefits package to retain teachers. Even then, teachers in the district still struggle.

"Even though the turnovers are lower, it doesn't necessarily mean that the culture and climate is positive for teachers, so it doesn't really tell us the whole story, and that's where I think the district could be doing a better job listening to educators," said Kristina Shelton, a former teacher and a current board member for Green Bay Area Public Schools.

After realizing the shortage in educators and substitute teachers, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction gave districts the ability to hire substitute teachers with an associate's degree.

"While we have not hired anybody as a substitute with an associate's degree, we would be prepared to do so if we needed to," said Marsch.

The Wisconsin Education Association Council says the shortage is not just about benefits and pay. Teachers are wanting to feel heard and valued.

"They need to be able to do things, the creativity, and all the things that they bring into the teaching. The passion, the love and the joy, they have to be allowed to do those things," said Ronald Martin, an 8th grade teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

"We have teachers who are using GoFundMe; they’re crowdsourcing to cover the costs that they need in their classroom. We have teachers who need additional support staff. We have teachers that wear multiple hats that are required to be many things to their students, and we need to be building them up and providing them with all the resources that they need so they can be the best in the classroom," Shelton adds.