It may seem surprising to some, but the turnover rate of teachers in Greenville County Schools was less this past summer than the summer before last, according to Lynn Gibbs, chief human resources officer for Greenville County Schools.
“Over last summer, staffing for the [2020-21] school year was an 8.4% turnover of teachers,” says Gibbs. “The year before it was 10.3%, so we saw less teachers leaving over the summer period than in a normal year.”
She attributes the difference to teachers’ spouses not having to move during the pandemic. Gibbs says it’s just not a world right now where people move like they normally would in the summer.
However, there has been more turnover from July to December, she says. The 21 or so teachers who have quit all did so because of concerns over family members or child care.
“In my mind, it’s [specifically] due to the pandemic,” she says. “In a normal school year, if I’m eligible to retire in October I probably would work till June, but in a pandemic world, if I’m eligible to retire in October I might just go ahead and retire.”
According to a recent report from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA), districts in the Palmetto State are reporting fewer departures than in previous years. More than 6,500 teachers did not return to a teaching position in the same district in 2019-20, but that number decreased to about 6,000 in 2020-21. There were also more vacant teaching positions in the 2020-21 school year than in 2019-20.
“Districts reported an increase of more than 140 vacant teaching/service positions for 2020-21 compared to last year. As of October/November this year, there were about 700 vacancies in SC public schools. With the growing impact of the pandemic, it was anticipated that districts would have more difficulty filling positions this year,” CERRA spokesperson Jennifer Garrett said in a press release.
To help GCS teachers cope with the pandemic, Gibbs says they’ve had counseling resources made available. The school district has also assisted in providing child care options to their employees.
Recently, the school district’s board of trustees voted on two resolutions concerning teachers and other GCS staff.
“Our board just voted to extend some of the provisions of the CARES Act — a paid leave for people, and I think that is reassuring. I think the approval of the $1,000 bonus payment will go a long way in showing that we know everybody’s working a lot extra,” says Gibbs.
There’s also the issue of vaccines. Gibbs says she has some former teachers who have said they’d return to the school district if they would have access to the vaccine.
And even while the pandemic shifts what teaching looks like, the school district is still hiring.
“We are actively recruiting for next year. We already have people hired for next year,” says Gibbs.