Douglas County schools' employee retention improves

Board identifies areas for improvement, celebrates data trends

Posted 9/30/19

In the Douglas County School District, data trends show retention is improving among employees, and some staff members are returning to the district. The school board reviewed turnover and retention …

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Douglas County schools' employee retention improves

Board identifies areas for improvement, celebrates data trends

Posted

In the Douglas County School District, data trends show retention is improving among employees, and some staff members are returning to the district.

The school board reviewed turnover and retention data at its Sept. 17 board meeting, where results brought some directors to tears.

“There's a little emotion to see this trend that says that people want to stay and the data on the people that are returning,” board President David Ray said, telling departing board members Wendy Vogel and Anne-Marie Lemieux to celebrate their roles in improving retention.

“That's why you got on this board to begin with, was because we were concerned about our staff leaving us, and to see that trend is reversing, just a lot of hallelujahs there,” Ray said.

Board members reviewed both Colorado Department of Education data and district data, which are calculated differently. The state department analyzes turnover rates for close to a calendar year, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 1.

“So, the data has a foot in two different school years,” said the district's Chief Human Resources Officer Amanda Thompson at a September board meeting.

The state data sets include charter school employees and considers movement between jobs or promotions as turnover. Licensed and classified groups are separated into two subgroups.

At the state level, turnover among administrators from 2018 to 2019 was 24.7%, up from the previous year's rate of 20.8%. Turnover among principals rose from 15% in 2017 to 2018 to 17.3% in 2018 to 2019. Turnover among teachers has held relatively steady in the past three years and from 2018 to 2019 was 16.4%.

According to CDE data, the Douglas County School District has the fourth best retention rate among metro area districts, nearly tying with Jefferson County Public Schools. DCSD's turnover rate was 18.4% from December 2017 to December 2018 and Jefferson's was 18.3%. The district was third overall for the best teacher retention.

Board director Anne-Marie Lemieux worried that certain elements of the state's calculations skewed data for district-run schools.

“My biggest concern is that charter school information is comingled with this, because we have over 20% of our schools that are charter schools,” she said. “We can't do anything about the charter schools.”

Director Krista Holtzmann clarified that the board wanted data that distinguished district-run schools from charters because “charter schools, by the charter school act, have autonomy in their employment practices, somewhat or mostly, in terms of salary and retention and hiring.”

Thompson said the Douglas County School District calculates turnover differently from the state department. DCSD's timeframe encompasses a full school year, looking at turnover from July 1 through June 30.

The district excludes charter schools, temporary employees, one-year contracts, movement between positions and promotions. When analyzing licensed turnover, the district includes all licenses staff, such as teachers, nurses and counselors.

Turnover has decreased every year since the 2015-16 school year, when it was 17.8%. Last year the district's turnover rate was 14.1%, its lowest since the 2012-13 school year. The turnover rate among principals has dropped significantly, now sitting at 7.1%, compared to 17.4% in school year 2013-14.

“Those are really big celebration points for us,” Thompson said.

More than 50 licensed employees returned to DCSD for the 2019-20 school year. They named job opportunities, moving back to Colorado, their love of schools or the district as some reasons for returning.

Despite areas of celebration, Lemieux said the districts retention rates aren't perfect.

Turnover among classified employees has decreased since the 2016-17 school year but remains higher than desired. It sat at 20.4% for the 2018-19 school year.

“When I see this percentage, I think there is some work to do,” Ray said. “I think we need to hear from some of our classified employees.”

Classified employees encompass employees like bus drivers, food and nutrition services, office administration support, para professionals, grounds workers and trades workers. Thompson said the district will look at each job type specifically to see where turnover needs improvement.

The district is also working to capture more data from employees who leave the district. About 62% of departing employees participated in an exit survey.

Thompson said they reported better commutes, retirement, and better job opportunities as their top reasons for leaving the school district. She hopes to collect surveys from all departing employees in the future.

Superintendent Thomas Tucker said the trends are “very positive” but the district will continue working to improve them. The district will be reviewing its pay schedule and strive to offer more competitive salaries among peer districts, he said.

Thompson said staff will review how the district's pay system compares to peers in the metro area and aim to make the pay schedule more predictable for employees. Overall, Tucker said the trends show the district is improving at retaining talent.

“We are very optimistic about those results. Some of the best results we've had in quite a few years,” Tucker said.

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