Teamwork and Grit – April 2017

gritOakes Public School District has a long standing history of retaining their teachers, counselors, and administrators. One example of this is in the office of the superintendent. E.A. Quam became the superintendent in 1932 and there have only been six other people in that position in 85 years.

The trend in recent years has changed with turnover. The 2016-2017 school year started with 27.5% new staff in regards to teachers, counselors, and administrators. This large number of new people to the district has led to a year of utilizing teamwork and grit to find the answers and fight our way through new positions and new challenges. I am part of the 27.5% and have struggled along with the other rookies this year. Some of the challenges arose simply because we didn’t know what we didn’t know. Also, with new positions comes new trials and new failures. I am proud of how we’ve grown throughout this school year and am thankful to our veteran staff for helping the new team members and allowing us to try new things and sometimes fail. The challenges that result from staff turnover are real and ultimately have an impact on our students and their quality of education. I think back to my first year as a teacher and realize that I would do very few things the same way now. Quite frankly, I’m lucky I survived my first year of teaching and was offered a position for the next school year.

The last three years at OPS have seen a trend change in retention of licensed faculty. We have experienced a combined 65% turnover with 20% in 2014, 17.5% in 2015, and 27.5% in 2016. This change in the amount of turnover in relation to the history of the Oakes School caused me to choose my thesis topic for my Specialist Degree through UND. My topic and study is, Recruitment and Retention of Licensed Faculty at Oakes Public School District #41. This study has allowed me to research rural schools across the nation. I’ve found that OPS is similar to rural schools across the United States with the recent increase in licensed faculty turnover.

My study has identified that a major factor in the recruitment and retention of staff has to do with the geographic location of the school. Schools that are in rural settings and are considered to be geographically isolated from urban cities are struggling with turnover. Rural superintendents indicated their schools were less alluring to teacher candidates because of a lack of adequate housing and poor economic health in the surrounding area (Schwartzbeck & Prince, 2003). Finding and keeping teachers has to be a team effort with the schools and their respective communities.

I am at the stage in my research where I will be sending out surveys to current OPS teachers, counselors, and administrators along with those that have left the district in the last ten years. Once I complete my study, I will have a follow-up blog post with my findings. We are all in this together; and we will prevail in the mission of preparing our students for their futures.

“You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader” Henry Ford

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