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Parents in Colo. District Launch Website to Chronicle Teacher Turnover

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Here's an an interesting maneuver on the teacher-turnover front: A group of parents in Jefferson County, Colo., who are unhappy with recent decisions by the local school board has created a website to chronicle an expected wave of teacher departures from their district over the next year.

The site, called Jeffco Exodus, is collecting teachers' (and families') stories about their frustrations with the district and their reasons for leaving.

According to local news station KUSA, the suburban-Denver district lost 710 teachers this school year (out of more than 5,000), an increase of about 50 percent from the previous year. District officials expect more than 800 teacher to depart over the next school year.

The parents in charge of Jeffco Exodus place the blame for the increased turnover squarely on the shoulders of a new, purportedly conservative-majority voting bloc in the local school board, which many see as hostile to teachers. Among other contentious issues, the board has sought to establish a new teacher-pay system based on performance ratings (as opposed to years of experience) and has engaged in a protracted battle with the Jefferson Teachers Association over salary increases.

Early this month, the two sides agreed on a plan that would give most teachers a raise of an average of about 1 percent, according to Chalkbeat Colorado. The union was clearly not happy with the deal. 

The school board also made national headlines earlier this year when it ordered a controversial review, later dropped, of the new Advance Placement U.S. History curriculum.

Teachers who have posted on Jeffco Exodus echo the site creators' animus toward the board.

"I'm leaving due to the lack of respect I feel from the newest school board members, my lack of trust for the newest school board members, and my disappointment in their ability to attract and keep quality educators," one teacher posted.

Others speak of a "toxic environment," a devaluing of experienced educators, and frustration over their pay.

In an earlier KUSA report, Jefferson County schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee said the district sought to address the compensation issue in the recent contract agreement by boosting pay for new teachers and adding an additional $2.4 million (over previous proposals) for current teachers.

McMinimee also noted that, even with the recent spike in departures, Jefferson County's annual turnover rate of about 15 percent is considerably lower than that of nearby districts like Denver and Aurora. The national average for individual public schools is right around 16 percent.

A county resident quoted by KUSA said that many voters in the county continue to support the board and that the body's initiatives should be given time to work before teachers and parents pass judgment on them.


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