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High staff turnover this year in GCD school district

 


High staff turnover this year in the Grand Coulee Dam School District has led some to wonder why.

In many cases, it is simply the right personal decision for the individuals involved, some said. Such is the case with Brian Daniels, who is resigning as a high school English teacher and cross country coach to move to Spokane.

“We have always wanted to end up there,” Daniels said about his wife and himself wanting to be closer to extended family. He added that he’ll miss his colleagues, friends, neighbors, and students from this area.

Other staff members say are leaving for similar, personal reasons.

Some departing staffers declined to comment on the subject for this story.

“Is it pay? Is it working conditions? Is it remote location?” Lake Roosevelt teacher Pam Johnson speculated in an email. “I’m just trying to convince the district to do exit interviews to determine the cause(s).”

Superintendent Paul Turner said he is looking into doing exit interviews in the future.

Lake Roosevelt Junior/Senior High School will have a new principal this next school year, for the sixth time since 2010, an instability that some speculate could feed into staff frustration.

“I enjoy working at LRHS and have no plans to leave,” said English Teacher Steve Files. “I do have concerns about the nearly constant turnover at the administrative level here on the junior/senior side; I believe that, along with relatively low salaries, has affected general morale to some extent as well as our ability to attract and retain qualified teachers, principals, and coaches.”

“It is a real challenge and takes a tremendous group effort at all levels to run a good school,” Files continued. “We have challenges to tackle and obstacles to overcome like any other school. I just hope the administration, the teachers, and the classified staff can agree on a vision and a plan going forward that will make our district the best it can be.”

Discipline has been a top complaint by school staff. In a November 2017 school board meeting, about 40 members of the Public Service Employees union voiced these concerns to the school board, citing “bullying, assault of teachers by students, disruptions in the classrooms,” and more as problems within the district, The Star reported at the time.

Public School Employee Chapter President Aaron Derr weighed in on the topic last week. “On several occasions we have formally expressed our concerns about discipline inconsistencies, bullying of other students and staff not being thoroughly addressed, as well as inconsistency in job expectations from the administration to both the administration and the school board but we have yet to see any formal implementations of changes to help the situation,” he wrote in an email.

Whether these frustrations have fed into some staff members’ decisions to leave is up for debate.

“I think we are addressing discipline,” Turner said, saying that the district has begun to implement training of staff, and has made procedural changes. But those issues haven’t gone away, and it will take time, he added.

Turner also said they have begun to focus on social-emotional learning with certain students to try to address the issues they are having.

Turner said he had been concerned that all the staff turnover, with over a dozen people leaving, might be because of problems within the district. But after looking into the matter, Turner said, it is simply coincidental that so many are leaving at the same time, and that in several cases the employees are leaving to be closer to family or other such personal reasons.

“They’re legitimate reasons why they’re leaving,” Turner said. “We’re all right.”

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