TCSS working on teacher retention

Published 9:00 am Saturday, August 12, 2023

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School districts in Georgia, and around the nation, continue to work on ways to retain teachers amid studies that show turnover has increased since the pandemic began in 2020.

Tracy Fox, chief human resource officer for the Troup County School System, said TCSS has hired over 131 teachers for the 2023-2024 school year, plus many other employees.

“We have 44 paraprofessionals, 98 classified, four substitute teachers, and some sub-classified employees as well. We have a total of 17 positions still open, and we’re still looking for four certified teachers. We’re sitting pretty well compared to some of our neighboring districts, but we want to fill every position if we can,” Fox said.

Fox said half of the teachers hired were retired teachers who came back into the system.

“One of our partners said it seemed like a lot of our teachers were coming home, and it kind of was our theme this year, ‘Come back home to Troup County.” We did see a higher trend of people that were either moving back to the area, had worked here previously, and were coming back, which we welcome with open arms,” Fox said.

Fox noted that more retirees are coming back because they want to fill gaps in teaching fields. Under House Bill 358, retired teachers can return to the classroom full-time and still receive their state pension if they are returning to a critical need area.

“They’re having the opportunity to retire but still come back and impact lives. Teachers have always been the ones to roll up their sleeves and get to work. I think teachers still do that today or retirees still do that today. That’s why they come back and sub. They’re not ready to completely leave education and leave a world that they’ve worked in for so long,” Fox said.

Fox said TCSS has started a few programs that assist with engagement and retention.

“We revamped our hiring experience to have personal communication with the applicant right at the beginning because we want to connect them and increase communication,” Fox said. ”… Last year, we created a teacher induction program and teacher effectiveness department, where they are providing support to brand new teachers so we can retain them. Many times we have heard employees say, ‘I didn’t feel like I was supported.’ We want to make sure that doesn’t happen, so we have to make sure we’re sending people out to make sure that they’re onboarded correctly, and then also have a personal coach that can help them get through that first year in the district.”

Fox noted that a large part of retention is providing future opportunities for educators.   

“You always want to grow your own. So through a leadership program, we provide the skills to professionals so that they feel that they’ve got the skills to go on to the next step in their career. That’s important for anyone in their perspective field, you always want to have some type of growth and having that opportunity is huge,” Fox said.

Irisha Goodman, director of public relations for TCSS, said chief talent officer Dexter Martin has led the program for teachers currently in the system. 

“The program has three different levels, depending on where they are in your educational career. It just provides them training for the next step and growth opportunities inside the district, where we provide opportunities in the district to promote or hire them within versus always having to kind of go outside of other districts to find the talent,” Goodman said. “We already have the talent here. We want to develop them even more and make sure they want to stay here.”

Fox said TCSS is also looking to welcome in non-traditional teachers to help fill positions.

“We’re not seeing a lot of people going into education. The numbers are lower, and that’s where you have to kind of rely on thinking outside the box, knowing that people may not be going into education, but we don’t have to hire somebody who went the traditional route. If they have a bachelor’s degree and are passionate about students, we will help you get certified. and I think that’s where districts are trying to pull resources from,” Fox said.