There are two issues I want to focus on: custodial staff shortage and our teacher shortage. As usual, I encourage you to watch these portions of the meeting.
Custodial Staff Shortage (31:30 minute mark)
I am increasingly receiving frustrated messages from teachers and staff about the custodial staff shortage at their schools. They indicate that the schools are not clean and the current staff is overworked. Even though we have been dealing with this problem for years (before COVID), the response I get is basically “we’re looking into other options.” That doesn’t seem good enough. I get it; everyone is struggling these days to fill positions. But we need to have concrete, strategic plans to address this problem. For example, one of my concerns is that we pay a custodian $18,000 as a starting salary. That is literally a poverty-level wage. Not surprisingly, principals tell me it is tough to keep a custodian who’s only making $18,000. And Commissioner Bishop threw out an idea–contract with outside agencies, at least, during specific times of the year when extra personnel can help with deep cleaning and other extra-intensive tasks. I thought this was a good idea. It will not solve the day-to-day issues, but it could be part of an overall solution.
My biggest concern is that this issue has been percolating for years, and we seem to simply be trying ad hoc solutions rather than systemic changes to the status quo. Let’s come up with an actual comprehensive plan to address this issue rather than one-off, short-term “solutions” that nibble at the margins of the problem.
Teacher Shortage (49:30 minute mark)
This district lost approximately 20% of its teachers. That is a staggering number, and it is more than other districts. We currently have over 200 vacancies, and the pool of available teachers has all but dried up. We should not normalize a 20% turnover rate, ever. Our unwillingness to admit that this is a failure on our part worries me. We have to ask ourselves what we are doing or not doing that is causing this extraordinarily high turnover rate.
I continue to press for more information to help us examine and address our teacher shortage. At the previous board meeting, I requested that the district provide exit interview data and the teacher turnover rate for every school in the district. The Superintendent recently indicated that we would receive the exit interview data sometime in July and the teacher turnover data in September. That’s not soon enough and there is no reason the board shouldn’t have this information now. I was glad to see the Chairwoman indicate to Dr. Witherspoon that the board does need the teacher turnover by school data before our board retreat in July.
I look forward to the entire board having an opportunity to review all the data. We have to do better.