Candidates look to address high teacher turnover rates in Thomasville

Over the past two years, the Thomasville City School has lost a third of its teachers. 143 teachers and support staff have left. Of that, 121 are resignations.
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 7:31 PM EST
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THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WALB) - On Tuesday, Nov. 7, voters across Georgia will be making critical decisions on local leaders in positions of power, like the race for the open city school board seat in Thomasville. It’s a big deal because teacher resignations are up, and proficiency scores are down.

Election Day is near, and the Thomasville City School Board seat is one that WALB is keeping an eye on. Within the past two years, the teacher turnover rate has been alarmingly high, causing candidates to put this issue at the front of their campaigns.

Consistency is an issue that the city school district has been facing. Candidate Stephan Thompson says he is working to reinstall trust in the school system.

“We’ve had turnovers from whether is be teachers. Turnovers where it was superintendents. Turnover whether it be principals, and so we want to have that continuity back in the school system,” said Thompson.

Over the past two years, the Thomasville City School has lost a third of its teachers. 143 teachers and support staff have left the school system. Of that, 121 were resignations. That’s why both candidates agree this is the major issue in the school board election race.

“The negative impact that that has on our students has been a menace and so we really just need to get that under control.” said Ryan Bradburn, a school board candidate.

Currently, the statewide average for math scores is 35%. Thomasville City schools are at 29%. The state average for reading proficiency score is 39%, but it’s 37% in Thomasville. Candidates say these low results are a part of the high turnover rate.

“The system here has been in somewhat of a decline of what’s been offered to the children. Our reading scores are very low, our math scores are very low,” Thompson said.

“The turnover in our educators has just negatively impacted our student scores, so if we can get happy teachers, that will be 110% be focused on our students, we can see that impact in our students just have amazing and immense success,” said Bradburn.

This race is important because the school board will eventually determine the next superintendent.

In March 2023, a petition was signed by over 1,000 people voting for the resignation of Superintendent Dr. Raymond Bryant just after 19 months on the job.

121. That’s the number of resignations the Thomasville City School Board has received within the past two years. Now, candidates are putting this issue to the front of their campaign just as Election Day is right around the corner.

“COVID was a huge effect on the system nationwide, where teachers were leaving the profession all over, so Thomasville wasn’t immune to that. But we want to have consistent leadership where this will be a destination place to come to work,” Thompson said.

After many resignations, candidates say they have a plan to re-establish trust with educators in the school system.

“To address financial insecurity that our teachers are feeling around our budget, to audit our non-facing times so our teachers are 110% focused on being in front of our students and assisting them,” Bradburn said.

This seat is extremely important because it determines the next school board superintendent - as there is currently no permanent superintendent for the school system.

“We just want to make sure that we hire the right person and assist them and support them so that they can make those good faith efforts to try and recruit and retain the top educators in the state of Georgia,” Bradburn said.

“We’ve hired a new superintendent. The superintendent has a relationship with the principal and that created some new synergy, and we want to make sure those people stay around,” Thompson said.

WALB did have some unanswered questions, like what are they currently doing to help with their teacher turnover rate and how are they encouraging teachers to stay? We reached out to the superintendent who said that he did not want to comment at this time.