High turnover rate for Duval teachers

Study finds independence in classroom, financial concerns weighed heavily


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There's a pretty high turnover rate for teachers in Duval County, according to a new study by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

It finds about 50 percent of new teachers in Duval County leave their jobs within the first five years of their careers.

Researchers interviewed 600 teachers to find out why.

In the survey, teachers mostly said financial concerns and not enough independence in their own classrooms weighed heavily of their decision to stay or leave teaching.

The study also found teachers in Duval get paid less than teachers in St. Johns and Clay counties.

In addition to a pay raise, teachers said incentives to stay in the classroom would be more time for planning and grading, less time on paperwork -- which they said takes up about 12 percent of their time -- and more options for career advancement.

Matthew Barone left his math teaching job at First Coast High School in October after spending a little more than three years there.

"Probably pay, and it's a rough gig depending on the school you're in," Barone said. "You've got behavior issues, you've got tons of blowback from the job. So it can be hard for sure."

Gary Chartrand, chairman of the state Board of Education, said research shows that the single-most in-school factor in a child's education is the quality of the teacher in the classroom, and Barone agrees.

"These kids see their teachers a lot more than they might see some other influential people at home," Barone said. "So yeah, those teachers make a huge difference just because they're getting that face time with those kids."

There is already a plan in place to address many of these things within the district, as far as an increase in salaries, that could be on the way.

The state's final budget has $480 million set aside for teacher pay raises.

The raises are performance-based. There's $2,500 for teachers who are deemed effective and another $1,000 for those who are highly effective.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said most Florida teachers are already considered effective or highly effective and will be eligible for this pay increase.

"Here's the positive. I proposed $480 million in the budget for teacher compensation," Scott said. "There is $480 million that the Legislature put in the budget. The positive is the school districts are going to have flexibility. Our teachers, all teachers, are going to have the opportunity for pay raise."

Legislators will vote on the final budget on Thursday. It then goes to Scott, who has the power to veto any spending items.At an education conference at TPC Sawgrass on Tuesday, leaders discussed solutions, such as increasing teacher salaries and rewarding teachers who prove their value.

"Employees stay or leave because of their boss. So when we talk about culture, are we creating those individual relationships where teachers feel valued at the school or are they just a clog in the wheel, are they just a part of the machinery?" said Duval County Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

He said there needs to be more individual conversations with teachers and work on bettering their environment so the good ones who have much a major influence on students' futures don't find a better job somewhere else.

"I always felt like i was supported from the staff," Barone said. "It may have, but I think when it comes down to it, greener pastures are going to prevail. There are other opportunities out there that might lure teachers away."

Jeb Bush, education leaders address public education in Duval County

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and education leaders sat on a panel at TPC Sawgrass on Tuesday to discuss the state of public education in Duval County.

"The fact that you're here means you believe this, and that warms my heart," Bush told those in attendance.

Recent statistics show high school dropouts are eight times more likely to go to prison and two times more likely to live in poverty.

The key to keeping kids in school is solid role models at home and in the classroom, Bush said.

"If you stand faithful to the fact that all children can learn, it's up to us to organize around them so that they do more often than not," Bush said. "And you have expectations that are higher and more meaningful for them, northeast Florida and Duval County and Jacksonville will take off."

To do that, leaders say the county needs to do a better job of recognizing great teachers and increasing their pay based on the positive impact they make in their students' education.

"Until we've had that 100 percent graduation rate, we still haven't gotten there," Vitti said. "But I can tell you this type of work, this type of initiative will fill those gaps and allow us to take this work to where it needs to go for every child."