Henderson suffers high turnover rate

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 24, 2016

By Rebecca Rider


SALISBURY — School system officials are reporting that Henderson Independent High School suffered a nearly 50 percent turnover in staff over the summer. Initially system staff reported a 75 percent turnover for the alternative high school at Monday’s called Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education meeting.

But after checking some records, Kristi Rhone, executive director of human resources with Rowan-Salisbury Schools, said that number is closer to 50 percent. As an alternative program that serves students who had difficulties in a regular school or classroom, Henderson has a “very small” staff — only 21 employees man the school, including certified teachers and support staff. Of those, 10 opted not to return for the 2016-17 school year.

“It’s not unusual that an alternative school would have more turnover,” Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody said.

Working in an alternative school can be “taxing” and teachers may require more tools and experience — and as with Exceptional Children programs, staff have to have the heart for it.

“There’s always a burnout for those two areas particularly,” Moody said.

Moody added that the system chose not to fill several positions at Henderson until they hired a new administrator — Arlisa Armond, who took over administration of the school on June 13.

But high teacher turnover is becoming normal. In the 2014-15 school year, the state turnover average hit 14.85 percent, according to a report presented to the state Board of Education — the highest percentage in five years. According to that same report, Rowan-Salisbury’s hovers around 14 percent. At the end of the 2015-16 school year, system staff estimated that the district had more than 100 teacher and staff openings.

And Rhone said it’s not unusual for an alternative program like Henderson to have a higher turnover rate.

“In comparison to a traditional school it is going to be slightly higher,” she said.

But in 2015, Henderson hit its lowest turnover rate since 2007, losing only 9 percent of its teachers, according to its N.C. Report Card. The school has had an average turnover of 31 percent since 2009.

Henderson is also the only alternative program in neighboring counties (Davie, Iredell, Cabarrus, Stanly) to have more than a 50 percent turnover since 2006.

While there are many reasons a teacher may choose to leave a school, the state board of education lists the top reasons as leaving for personal reasons, moving to another position in education or retirement. Moody theorized that one reason many teachers left Henderson is because the system had to discontinue incentive pay.

Staff and teachers used to receive a $5,000 incentive, on top of state and local supplements, to teach at the alternative school, with funds provided by a School Improvement Grant. But the money ran out.

“I think that had some bearing on it,” Moody said. “It would for me.”

On Monday, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education voted to renew incentives, offering Henderson staff a $2,500 supplement for their first two years at the school, and a $5,000 supplement should they stay on for a third year.

Rhone reports that so far, all but three positions have been filled. But Moody said the state has freed up the path for lateral entry — hiring those who may not be certified, but have a four-year degree in a subject they’re interested in teaching.

“We’re trying to think more creatively about the people we hire,” She said.

Staff who are applying at Henderson, however, would need to have a background in alternative programs, Rhone said, or know what it takes and “be up to the challenge.”

Moody said if there were still openings in August, positions would need to be filled by substitutes, or that the school — which has a flexible schedule — may be able to fill some of the gaps with technology.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.