Teacher Turnover at Private Schools

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Private School Faculty/Admin turnover

August 2011

My daughter just finished her first year (K) at an independent school. The school is moderate in size (two classes per grade). We've had a great experience; however, I've noticed that several teachers and administrators are leaving (if memory serves, about eight). Is this typical? I am not familiar with private schools. Does there tend to be a lot of movement within them (regarding faculty)? Or is this unusual? I believe the student populations is around 400 kids. Thanks for any feedback. anon

As a longtime parent of kids at independent schools, I can speak to the question of turnover in faculty. I was very involved with the K-8 school that my kids attended, and learned the back story behind these announcements. There is always turnover every year. Most of the time, it's for unremarkable reasons: an administrator is retiring, a teacher decides to move to another state because his spouse got a good job there, etc. It's a real challenge for independent schools to pay faculty at a rate that allows them to live in the Bay Area, and some leave for less expensive areas. Sometimes the school and faculty member don't see eye-to-eye, and there is a parting of the ways. This happens in any work environment.

I would be concerned about turnover if there was buzz at the school that a significant number of faculty were leaving because they are unhappy. I would also be concerned if the school didn't seem to handle the departures well, i.e., schools not being up front with families about departures, teachers leaving in the middle of the school year, teachers saying unfavorable things about the school when they leave. Otherwise, I would recognize that turnover happens in every workplace and not be concerned. Anon

my kids have been in various private schools since kindergarten. I'd say 8 teachers leaving at once is high. I'd consider it a red flag. Is something going on -- has there been an administrative change over the past year? I've seen this result in high turnover after the teachers have suffered through a year with a new, poorly chosen head of school. For example, the parents and board may love the new head of school but maybe new head treats the teachers horribly. Likewise, a new school administration may be doing a needed cleaning out of the dead weight in the teaching staff. Given the current economy it seems unlikely that they are all leaving for great positions at other schools. One year of K isn't really enough to figure out all of the school faculty-administration relationships and build strong relationships so that the faculty/staff will tell you what's really going on. (i.e. the stuff that will never be in a newsletter) I'd pay close attention next year and decide early on if it was time to move elsewhere. private school veteran

I think 8 staff leaving is a LOT for a school with 400 kids. There are probably 18-20 teachers at this school if it's K-8 and there are 2 classes per grade. Let's say some of the people who left were in administration. So, if only 5 teachers left, out of 20 teachers total, that would be a 25% turnover rate. That is not a good sign, especially now with such high unemployment.

It would be useful to have a little more information. Does the school have a large number of teachers who've only been there a year or two? What percentage of teachers have been at the school for more than 6-8 years? The teachers who left - had they been there for a long time? Or were they all recent hires? Has the administration changed recently? Does this happen every year? People retire, they move away, that happens, but this seems like way more than just normal attrition. See what you can find out from other parents, especially those in upper grades.

If you think about a workplace, 25% of the employees leaving in the same year usually points to a boss problem. Maybe it's a new boss and things will get sorted out next year (the boss will be replaced, or the boss will tone it down.) Or maybe this is an ongoing problem and the business/school just factors in high turnover because they'd rather keep the boss than do whatever is needed to make the employees happy. But no business wants to have that many people leaving, especially if it's happening year after year. It adversely affects the business (school).

Personally, I'm paying private school tuition in part so my kid can have the consistency and stability of the same school for 9 years, so I'd be concerned about a turnover rate this high. Anon.

Regarding faculty/admin turnover at your child's school -- I am making the assumption that there have been messages from the school administration about the reason(s) for the turnover. If not, I would definitely talk to the administration and express your concerns. At the same time, I would reach out to the PTA or parent/family organization at your school and see if they have further information (also go to any meetings they have as you will meet parents in different grades than your child and get a broader perspective on the school). As a new kindergarten parent you may not have contacts in upper grades to whom you can address your questions. Also, talk to other parents. Is your child happy at the school? It may be that the turnover is the result of several teachers/admins making life decisions (moving, accepting new jobs) that do not have to do with the school environment itself. At my child's elementary school several teachers left in the same year due to a variety of reasons not related to the school.