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Teaching staff weathers accreditation storm?

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Education Association President Sid Chapman was expecting to see some 600 teachers leave the school system amid its accreditation crisis. But he was pleasantly surprised on Monday to hear the departures are not much higher than the system's average losses.

There were 430 Clayton County teachers who did not sign new contracts by the district's deadline of May 1. The district employed 3,700 teachers this year, which means 12 percent of the teachers are leaving this summer. Overall, only 76 school system employees are retiring, and not all are teachers.

Chapman said the number of teachers who chose not to sign contracts for the next school year was not completely surprising, because the district typically loses as many as 300 teachers per year. Still, he and the CCEA's executive board addressed the issue of teacher turnover on Monday during a meeting with Corrective Superintendent John Thompson.

"We've got to build a stable work force to improve our school system," Chapman said.

Discipline, and lack of administrative support, are traditional reasons teachers leave the district, but Chapman said the school system's accreditation crisis was likely the overarching factor.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has given the system a deadline of Sept. 1, to meet nine mandates for improvement, or the district will lose it accreditation. SACS officials issued the mandates in February after they determined the county's board of education was "dysfunctional."

"There is the fear of being in an unaccredited school system, and a lack of confidence in leadership, especially coming from the board," Chapman said. "We can only hope many teachers who signed new contracts did so to help the school system get better."

Despite Chapman's surprise at the resignation figure being lower than he expected, it is higher than school system officials were predicting. District leaders projected nine percent of teachers would not sign contracts for the 2008-09 school years.

District Spokesman Charles White said the school system does not yet have data which explains why the teachers did not re-sign their contracts. When teachers decide not to come back to the district for another year, officials from the human resources department begin calling those teachers to determine why they are leaving.

"We are in the process of doing that at this time," White said.

Officials from the human resources department were involved in meetings on Monday which were held away from the district's Central Administration Complex, and could not be reached for comment.

White also said the number of teachers who want to leave the system this summer may change in the coming weeks. "During the exit interviews, some teachers may decide they want to come back after all," he said.

Metro Association of Classroom Educators (MACE) President John Trotter could not be reached for comment on Monday.