New report shows Durham Public Schools losing teachers at higher rate than other NC districts

A recently released report revealed that Durham Public Schools is losing teachers at a higher rate than other districts across the state.

Conducted by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the report tracked employment data from each of the state’s local education agency (LEA) from March 2022 through March 2023. It found that 10,376 of the 90,638 teachers employed by North Carolina public and charter schools during that time frame are no longer teaching at a North Carolina public or charter school, giving the state an 11.45% “state attrition rate.”

This is a stark increase from the 7.78% attrition rate recorded by the state in the year prior (2021-22) and the 8.20% attrition rate recorded in 2020-21, mirroring nationwide trends of increased attrition across the profession. 

"In Durham Public Schools, we have worked diligently to reduce our increases in teacher attrition as we exited the pandemic like other school districts across the nation. We are excited to see our efforts also contributed to a recoupment rate, among one of the highest in the state, of 36.1%. This means DPS is doing the work to attract experienced teachers from across the state in North Carolina," wrote Crystal Roberts, director of strategic communications for DPS, in a Thursday evening email to The Chronicle. 

The report did not cite specific reasons for teachers leaving, but nearly half (48%) of the self-reported responses fell into the category of “personal reasons.” Data from across the country shows that teachers are dissatisfied with salaries, concerned about safety and have feelings of burnout. 

DPS teachers left the district at a higher rate in comparison to other school districts. The DPS “LEA attrition rate,” which includes teachers that either left the state or left their respective LEA, was 21.1%, exceeding the average LEA attrition rate of 16.8%.

Of the 493 educators that left DPS, 38.9% moved to a new North Carolina public school district and the remaining left the system altogether. This is a similar percentage compared to those reported by other districts, although slightly more DPS educators left to teach in a new public-school unit compared to the state average.

This report was released amidst heightened scrutiny of DPS after staff, teachers and community members protested earlier this year against pay cuts for classified workers which ultimately led to the resignation of DPS superintendent Pascal Mubenga in early February. The protests caused several school closures and canceled bus routes throughout the first half of February. 

The district has since issued a temporary 11% increase in these salaries as they attempt to sort out the budget and named an interim superintendent. 

As teachers are leaving DPS, many are also being hired, showing fluidity within the educator workforce. 

Statewide, the majority of the teachers leaving and the ones being hired are educators with fewer than three years of teaching experience. DPS, however, was able to attract a higher than average amount of experienced educators to fill its open positions, reducing the number of inexperienced teachers the district had to hire. 

Regardless, the school district had to begin the 2022-23 school year with 113 vacancies that it scrambled to fill. Over half of vacancies still remained 40 days into the academic year. 

The district had particular trouble finding educators to fill exceptional children and core K-5 teaching positions.

There is no clear reason as to why DPS teachers are leaving at a higher rate than the state average. The district is not comparatively under-resourced, receiving competitive funding from the local, state and federal level, including getting grants with unrestricted spending during the academic year analyzed in this report. In that same academic year, the DPS budget afforded a staggering $15,413 expenditure per pupil, ranking it 24 out of the 115 LEAs in the state.

Editor's Note: This article was updated Thursday evening with Roberts' comment. 

Ana Despa

Ana Despa is a Pratt first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.       


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