Teacher turnover increases

Published 5:35 pm Monday, September 1, 2014

For her 20th year of teaching starting today, Loveeta Britt will start with Franklin City Public Schools after spending her entire career with Suffolk Public Schools.

The former Lakeland High School math teacher’s resignation is for personal reasons. After being diagnosed with vertigo, she has to avoid night driving.

Britt lives in Franklin, and “wanted to get closer to home,” she said, to avoid the need to drive home in the dark after late meetings.

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According to spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw, 116 teachers resigned from the Suffolk district at the end of the previous school year, and 20 retired.

Of the resignations, 57 had between one and five years of experience, 42 had between six and 10 years, and 11 had between 11 and 20 years, Bradshaw stated.

Though Britt left for a different reason, pay is at the heart of the argument for leaving the Suffolk system for many teachers.

“We went five or six years without a pay raise,” Britt said. “When we start school (after the summer), we have to spend money, buying supplies for the kids and fixing the room up to have a learning environment.”

Comparing 2008 and 2013 teacher pay scales for the five South Hampton Roads cities, basic pay for Suffolk teachers with 10 years’ experience has gone backwards more than 7 percent.

In Norfolk and Portsmouth, salaries have actually grown during the period — by 1.8 and 9.2 percent, respectively.

Among 11 Hampton Roads cities, Suffolk teacher pay in the previous school year was between last, for a teacher with nine years’ experience, and eighth, for a teacher with 15 to 25 years’ experience.

The 116 teacher resignations this summer is more than twice as high as the attrition rate at the end of 2010-2011. The figure has crept up from 61 that year, to 74 after 2011-2012 and 79 after 2012-2013.

This year, teachers and other school staff received raises of 1.5 percent after the superintendent had initially proposed 3-percent increases for full-time teachers and 2-percent raises for others.

Bradshaw stated that teachers leave the district for various reasons, “but several mentioned money as a factor,” adding, “More data on this will be completed in the near future.”

Britt said that in “any school system,” teachers feel underappreciated. “A teacher is the only person that’s (held) accountable for a person’s education,” she said. “They don’t make the parents accountable.”

She also thinks students are taking too many tests, the result of which teachers are left to deal with. “The kids just get burned out,” she said.

But teachers teach because “you love it and it’s something you want to do,” Britt added.

“Teaching is my calling — God has called me to be a teacher.”