The DeKalb County School District lost about 15 percent of its teaching staff each year since Superintendent Steve Green joined the district in July 2015. But he and other officials have now seen the number of departures decline this past school year. (AJC FILE PHOTO)

DeKalb schools: Recruiting, retention efforts saw fewer teachers leave

The DeKalb County School District lost fewer than 700 teachers during the 2017-2018 school year, about 10 percent of its teaching force, but significantly less than in recent years, suggesting progress with retention efforts.

Human capital management reports from meetings held between July 2017 and June 2018 show 682 teacher resignations in that time period. The district had lost about 15 percent of its staff each year since Superintendent Steve Green joined the district in July 2015. District officials said recently that more than 7,000 teachers work in their schools.

VIDEO: In other DeKalb schools news

School leaders say they want to hire teachers for more than two dozen schools.

District officials have touted raises, as well as recruitment and retention bonuses, for the past few years among strategies to improve turnover. New Chief Human Capital Management Officer Bernice Gregory said credit also goes to targeted recruitment, which she plans to put more emphasis on as she continues with the district.

“We’re using data to drive our hiring practices and … become more intentional when we’re going out recruiting,” said Gregory, who joined the district in April.

Gregory said many teachers who received signing bonuses in the last two years for coming to DeKalb Schools are still with the district.

The district has about 300 teacher vacancies, also fewer than this time last year, heading into the new school year.

According to district data, teachers left for various reasons including retirement, finances and new teaching jobs in Georgia or metro Atlanta.

Neighboring Gwinnett County Schools, which employs nearly twice as many educators, reported fewer teachers resigned in the same period.

In neighboring Atlanta Public Schools, officials said an aggressive campaign to retain school administrators has helped with retention efforts for several years. The district’s retention rate during the 2016-2017 school year was just over 90 percent.

At one point, Green attributed the high turnover in DeKalb to higher standards as a new leadership team took over.

“It’s a natural byproduct as we begin to raise expectations and increase the level of rigor and evaluation expectation that there are going to be people who are going to find their way out of the organization,” Green said in 2016, when the district lost 915 teachers during his first year. “And, to a certain degree, that is expected.”

The district still employs close to 200 teachers through certification waivers. In the past, district officials said waivers were being used through its status as a Strategic Waivers System, making hires for hard-to-fill positions such as special education and science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That wasn’t always the case, as online data showed waivers being used for many positions.

Gregory has announced plans to address that, creating a pathway to certification for the district’s uncertified teachers.

Gregory said her goal is to begin the school year in August with zero vacancies “and to have a certified teacher at the helm of every classroom, if we can do so.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.