MARION, SC (WBTW) – Marion County Schools will lose 70 teachers after school ends this year, which continues a pattern for the district of losing a large portion of instructors each year.
Marion County school leaders say for the last three years the district has lost on average 70 teachers to retirement, moving to a different county, or changing career paths. Administrators claim this is not a Marion County problem; this is a challenge rural school districts face across the country.
Demario Adams, a concerned parent within the Marion County School District, says he’s worried high numbers of teachers leaving the county may create overcrowding in his rising fourth grader’s class.
“I don’t need him being distracted,” states Adams. “The child will want to learn, but can’t learn because someone is distracting [them or] somebody is not paying attention. Someone is not doing what they are supposed to do.”
Marion County schools spokesperson says the national teacher shortage hits rural areas hardest because of the inability to pay teachers more money.
“The teacher shortage hits the areas that are rural, low socioeconomic and high minority the hardest,” confirms Deborah Wimberly, Marion County Schools Public Relations Coordinator. “Unfortunately that’s an area that we’re in.”
According to the South Carolina Department of Education 2016 report cards by district, Florence School District Four in Timmonsville, Florence School District Three in Lake City, and Marion have the highest turnover rates in our area.
Teacher turnover percentage in the Pee Dee for 2015-2016:
School District Turnover Rate (percentage)
Florence 4 23.4
Florence 3 18.1
Dillon 3 10.1
Florence 2 10.1
Dillon 4 9.9
Florence 1 8.5
Wimberly says the district works with the state to offer incentives to bring teachers to the area, and this year will be no different.
“Our babies deserve to be educated just as much as anyone else’s babies,” voices Wimberly.
The district also performs exit interviews.
“Anytime someone leaves the district, we always interview them to find out what is it that we can do better,” explains Wimberly. “What is it that we are doing good. What can we celebrate? What can we improve on?”
Adams hopes the district hires more teachers before the next school year to make sure all students have a balanced student-teacher ratio.
“If they have more teachers that probably will help,” predicts Adams. “So, they can focus on the kids a little more to help them understand what they need to learn.”
Marion County School District administration will begin exit interviews in the next two weeks, then they will begin recruiting teachers to the area. Wimberly says the district is confident it will fill all the vacancies created by departing teachers before school starts in the fall.