Teacher Turnover at Private Schools

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  • Independent School Teacher Turnover?

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    Has anyone else who sends their children to private school experienced a huge amount of administrative changes/teacher turnover in the last few years?

    We send our kids to 2 highly regarded, well-established independent schools in the East Bay, and I feel like they are falling apart at the seams. I've been an educator for 20 years and I've never seen teacher attrition like this. Covid has obviously been a very hard time for everyone-- parents, students, teachers, and administrators. It is understandable but also so disruptive and disappointing. Leadership seems stressed and stretched, teachers seem unhappy and unsupported, and they are leaving our schools in much larger than usual numbers.

    I guess my question is, is it worth looking into different schools? Or is this an issue that everyone is facing? Is there anyone out there with K-8th aged kids who feels like their school faculty and administration are really solid?

    Thanks :)

    I’ve been a teacher for over 20 years and I have never seen anything like this year. I will tell you that we are completely unprepared for the massive teacher shortage of next year, worse than even during distance-learning. 

    in addition remember that private school teachers make less money than public school teachers who already don’t really make enough to leave live on and many many teachers are going into different fields. I don’t think you’re going to find anything better until we get education reform somehow and much much higher salaries. 

    It's an industry-wide challenge, and is exacerbated in the Bay Area given the number of educators whose partners work in other fields that have gone to remote work models so no longer need to be physically located in such a high cost area. I don't think you'll find a huge difference at other schools over time (and certainly not at public schools, which are really struggling with this). I do think our independent K-8 saw more attrition this year because people who had planned to leave last year held off for a year waiting out COVID, so we ended up with more than the typical number of departures. Many of those leaving are leaving teaching or leaving the Bay Area, though, which I think is very telling. Our school has lost many families for the same reason--life changes post-COVID have taken them out of the region. I've been happy with our school leadership, but the leaders are on the newer side so I have no idea if that contributed to any of the staff transitions. It's certainly the case that there are so many vacancies everywhere that teachers have choice in which schools they want to be at, so I'm sure there is some lateral movement too. Hoping next year will be a more stable year for education across the board!

    I feel like we are seeing turnover everywhere, not just independent schools. My child's preschool had the same teachers for 15+ years pre-pandemic and now only one long term teacher remains, they can't get more, and its one of the most well established and competitive waged schools around. I work in healthcare and the turnover is constant, we are losing admins, support staff, nurses and doctors monthly. My older  child goes to a independent school in Berkeley that has had more  teacher turnover than I was expecting or would like but recently hired some incredible new teachers who i think will be great, the leadership is remaining and very dedicated and I think all of us families remaining are so excited about the future of our school. I also think there is increased turnover everywhere in terms of student enrollment and it seems a lot of families are still in search of a school that feels right for them. I know how hard uncertainty is but I also think its important to see how our kids are doing; my child is thriving in their school, my anxiety about changes or turnover has abated a lot when i just stopped and saw what an incredible experience my child has been having and kept me looking forward to next year. Feel free to reach out if you are looking elsewhere since I know naming actual schools doesn't really make sense in this posting.

    I think teacher turnover is a part of the larger trends. Many people are moving. Schools aren't immune to the Great Reshuffling that's happening. We're quite content with our small private school in Oakland but have been sad to see many families move to different states / countries and to learn that several teachers won't return next year. Most of the departures we have seen at our school are related to moving away or career change. I'm told that most of the teachers who are leaving our school are not leaving to teach at a different private school in the area but rather they're moving out of state or to different regions of CA or have chosen a different career path. I find our school's administrative and leadership team to be very strong, reliable, responsive, and solid. Teachers are stressed and exhausted, as we all are. In winter, they endured speaking more loudly than normal due to masking while also being cold due to windows being open for ventilation. They braved through multiple surges and kids being out sick due to Covid, being afraid that they might get Covid, or getting Covid themselves. However, teachers at our school seem supported and appreciated. I never get a sense that teachers are disgruntled on the job. Administration is stretched thin. I can't imagine how difficult it is to manage and run a school during the pandemic -- heightened anxiety, fear of getting sick, people being out and having to scramble to find support or fill in for teachers, differing and competing priorities and demands from teachers, students, and families...... Despite all of the challenges, I think our school's Head, the Board, support staff and teachers have done as best as they could and I feel that families are going above and beyond to show appreciation.  We did not see any teacher leaving in the middle of school year. We have been notified that several teachers are leaving which is disappointing but they are moving to areas that are more affordable or are following their significant others who got a job far away. It's disruptive and sad to see so many people leaving the Bay Area. 

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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.