Teachers claim salaries too low

Five-year outlook shows rapid loss of educators

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— An association's examination into the Steamboat Springs School District's teacher turnover showed apparent displeasure in pay and leadership.

At a school board meeting Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs Education Association, representing about 90 percent of the teaching staff, presented the board with surveyed information from 122 of the 145 teachers.

The association sent out teacher surveys to all four public schools in the district to find out future plans of teachers. The report shows the district average of teaching years is 12.3 years.

"That number is lower than what I was expecting," association president Mike Smith said. "Then I asked myself, 'What caused it to be so much lower?'"

The results showed that teacher salaries, cost of living and a lack of trust in the school board and superintendent could cause teachers with seven years of experience or less to leave the district within the next five years.

"I think there's great sympathy for staff salaries in this district. I think that is what's contributing to the comments about the superintendent and school board," district Superintendent Cyndy Simms said.

Simms said she hopes solutions can be found by teachers and the administration working together.

Smith chose to survey the five-year plans of teachers because teacher shortages are already beginning to peak, he said.

"If we have a higher percentage of turnover, we're facing a crisis in hiring the best of the best," Smith said. "People want to get out of this district sooner."

Dan Birch, school board president, asked Smith if these numbers were comparable to previous years.

"Every year is a little different. I don't know if that's high or average," Smith said of the number of teachers leaving the district.

The survey presented teachers with the question, "What do you feel are the greatest issues facing teachers in Steamboat Springs School District?"

About 71 percent of the 122 responses said poor pay was the most important issue.

Following poor pay, 27 percent of the respondents said a lack of respect and appreciation was a concern.

About 18.9 percent of the teachers said the high cost of living was an issue and 17.2 percent indicated there was a lack of trust and communication within the district.

Highlighted information on the survey also suggested about one-third of the teaching staff would be retiring in the next five years.

Also, 67.4 percent of teachers with seven years of experience or less would be leaving the district, the survey reported.

"We'll take the preliminary information and ideas to convene and work through the issue to see what we can come up with," Birch said. "I don't want people to lose sight of the fact that the board has a policy. We want to hire and retain the best staff. We have a more common vision and purpose than people are thinking."

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