More than half of Peninsula School District teachers who responded to a recent survey by the teachers union say they have considered resigning or taking leave this year.
Carol Rivera, president of the Peninsula Education Association, reported Thursday to the school board with a brief recap of survey results and an update on the union’s efforts to support staff mental health given the stress of ongoing disruptions from the pandemic.
Rivera this week will submit a grant application to support an initiative within the district aimed at teacher retention and staff well-being.
The district lost about 100 teachers last year for various reasons, many related to the pandemic. Those positions have been mostly filled, but the union and district officials want to make sure new teachers stick around. The total teaching staff numbers around 600.
“Having 100 out of 600 staff new is a big change and a lot of investment of money and time and effort we put into bringing people into our district. We want to keep them here, because that’s what’s best for our students,” Rivera said.
The union previously received a $10,000 planning grant from the National Education Association to map out strategies for shifting the district’s culture toward encouraging educators to exercise self-care. Rivera has said district officials have been receptive to the idea. The next step will be to implement the plan, funded (the union hopes) by a new and larger round of grant funding.
Rivera said the survey helped her take the pulse of current staff morale.
“Most recently, I did conduct a survey of our staff to just kind of understand where they are with well-being to help me put together our thoughts for our final grant proposal,” she said.
About 450 teachers, 75% of certificated staff, took the survey in January. Now, nearly two years since the start of the pandemic, teachers indicated their jobs are harder than ever due largely to rolling absences among students and staff because of COVID-19.
“I think that it would be important for you to know that 64% of those who answered felt that this school year was more stressful than any other year that they’ve experienced,” Rivera told the board.
Contributing factors are providing for the needs of students who are absent, as well as “having to serve and cover for other classes,” and “not getting their planning (time).”
“I wanted to end with the one piece that was most eye-opening for me, when 51% of respondents reported that they considered resigning or taking leave this year,” Rivera said.
Superintendent Krestin Bahr, in her comments to the board, recognized the district staff for soldiering through and reiterated her pledge to keep schools open despite staffing shortages.
“We are nearing the end of Year 2 and the beginning of Year 3 for really a complete disruption and required change in almost every system in our schools,” Bahr said. “We recognize that we are all pioneers in a new world, creating community, encouraging one another through the trials and risks that we’ve been through. Being faced with uncertainty daily with an ever-changing and frustrating landscape for months at a time and now years at a time has been our reality.”
Bahr expressed thanks to school district staff and gratitude for the dozens of community members who have stepped up in response to the district’s call for substitute teachers and other staff.
“I am very proud of the staff and of our students. It has been really difficult with this last omicron surge. There were many school districts that did close and we did not close. I am very committed and I know the staff is to keep our doors open for all children, everything single day,” Bahr said.
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The district continues to seek qualified people willing to work as substitute teachers and support staff. For more information, visit psd401.net.
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