How staffing turnover is reshaping education

SCHOOLS UNDER STRESS

By EILEEN O'GRADY
Photographs by GEOFF FORESTER

Day 1: Many districts facing a crisis

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After 25 years of teaching, special education teacher Pat Prescott retired from her job at Franklin High School a bit early. On June 16, 2022, some last-minute paperwork, classroom packing and goodbyes were all that stood between her and retirement.

Teachers nearing retiriement age are opting to leave the career early after seeing their workloads increase to overwhelming levels. 

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Day 2: Challenging time for educators

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Heidi Foster decided to leave when the school year ended later that month. Foster, 57, thought she would be dedicating at least eight more years to teaching, but the lack of work-life balance was taking its toll on her mental health, she said. 

While there’s no numerical evidence that New Hampshire teachers are leaving their jobs in droves like many retail and hospitality employees during the Great Resignation, it’s on their minds. In late March, the Monitor surveyed 200 teachers who had either left the field in the last four years or are seriously considering leaving. Many respondents cited burnout, lack of support from administrators, worsening student behavior issues in their schools and political tension in their communities as reasons why they left or were seriously considering leaving.
 

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Day 3: Paraeducators in high demand

38744697.jpgElizabeth Meade applies for a paraeducation position at the Weare School District job fair at the Weare Middle School on August 17, 2022. Meade was looking for a job at the school where her children attend.

“The shortage of paraeducators is not anything new,” Sharon Gallager said. "It's just gotten to extreme crisis situation now.”
 

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Day 4: Solutions for teacher retention

38591688.jpgElena Register, right, poses with Bridgewater Hebron Village School kindergarten student Idina Roberts, on one of Register's last days assistant teaching at the school.

Unlike other professions like food service workers and healthcare workers that saw unprecedented turnover during the pandemic – often called the Great Resignation – education officials say schools were spared from massive waves of teachers quitting. The challenge has been finding enough candidates to fill the positions generated by routine turnover.

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