Schools still aim for good education despite vacancies

By Johnny Jackson

Each year around the country, thousands of teachers change schools and school systems; they find better opportunities, they move away, or they retire. In Georgia last year, more than 15,000 teachers relocated from schools, according to a report by the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Schools in Clayton County are no different; hundreds of county school employees are still promoted, relocated, or retired across the area.

"It's kind of cyclical," said Jackie Hubbert, assistant superintendent for Human Resources. "Our community has more transition now; we're going to have more transition in our workforce. When the community becomes transitory, the teachers become transitory."

Hubbert reported that the county actually had fewer vacancies this year compared to previous years. Through July 15 of this year, the county has managed an 86 percent teacher retention rate, Hubbert said at a called board meeting, July 21.

"We are very fortunate," she said. "We don't want any teachers to leave - any good teachers - we would like to keep every one of them. Unfortunately, that's not the way it works in any system."

Hubbert said when the information was compiled in July, the county had 95 certified vacancies and 10 vacancies for administrators. There were 20 elementary school vacancies, 32 middle school vacancies, 34 high school vacancies, and six staff vacancies elsewhere for the county.

She said the county aims to fill every vacancy with highly qualified teachers. There are 45 vacancies now (eight elementary, 12 middle, 22 high schools, including three other vacancies in the county), filled by substitute teachers. Many of the substitute teachers are highly qualified teachers brought out of retirement, said Barbara Pulliam, superintendent of Clayton County Schools.

"We've lost some good teachers, because we've had highly qualified teachers and other counties have sought them out," said Eddie White Clayton County Board or Education member. "We do the same thing. We accept teachers from other counties too.

"We are not burying our heads in the sand on this one," he said. "We are aware that we are losing people we don't want to lose. We lost three good administrators to other counties, but that's because they are good administrators."

Hubbert said that the county would benefit from Georgia's curriculum standards as well as competitive salaries and benefits she said the county has.

"Any problems we've had with teacher retention will probably get better just because the culture of the county is getting better," she said. "A lot of people seem to think that people leave a school system because of the culture of the school. It also deals with the community, and we're doing better there. With Dr. Pulliam's tenure and the support our principals give teachers, we've become a stable school system."

"I think it was an outstanding start of the school year," Pulliam said. "I am very much encouraged by the job that we're doing to retain teachers (and staff)."

The transportation department for Clayton County Schools reported about 15 vacancies for day-to-day and unassigned drivers.