The 2013-2014 school year in Knox County marked a turning point for many teachers. Many expressed, for the first time in public, their opposition to changes in education, testing, and administrators in the district.
There were rumors of a mass exodus – hundreds of teachers looking to leave Knox County Schools.
During a November interview on Inside Tennessee, teachers Lauren Hopson and Gloria Johnson (who is also a state lawmaker) stated they expected many of their colleagues to depart.
When asked by 10News anchor and moderator John Becker how many teachers would return to their own schools next years, Hopson replied:
"Well, that depends on the reality of their situation. If the teachers in my building had another opportunity, it might be more than 80 percent [who] might do something different."
10News requested the number of certified teacher retirements and resignations in Knox County this year, and in years past.
Tallying up those who had submitted their paperwork by the end of April, KCS expected 135 teachers to resign and 124 to retire by the end of June 2014.
The totals are lower than previous years:
Certified teacher retirements:
- 2006-07: 120
- 2007-08: 150
- 2008-09: 104
- 2009-10: 126
- 2010-11: 164
- 2011-12: 169
- 2012-13: 186
- 2013-14: 124 (reflects those who gave notice by April 2014)
Certified teacher resignations
- 2007-08: 168
- 2008-09: 136
- 2009-10: 170
- 2010-11: 196
- 2011-12: 245
- 2012-13: 269
- 2013-14: 135 (reflects those who gave notice by April 2014)
It comes as a surprise to Patti Bounds, who was just elected to the Board of Education in May and is a Knox County teacher retiring at the end of the year.
"What I hear is teachers are leaving sooner than they're ready," she said. While Bounds expected an increased retirement rate from the Baby Boomers, she said some will be leaving for different reasons.
"Teachers that I've talked with say, 'I would have taught another year, I would've taught two more years, but you know, it's just too much," she said. "It's not about their workload, they don't feel like this is in the best interest of the children."
Bounds taught for several decades, and her decision was based on the desire to spend more time with grandchildren – not due to concerns with the district.
Johnson had an opportunity to review the numbers, too.
"I see a gradual increase every year. It's not huge, but I also don't think for this year, everything [has] come in. And everything's not going to come in before August," she said, explaining many teachers make the decision to switch jobs during the summer months.
"I know teachers who are going to be out looking for jobs over the summer," she said. "And they don't want to change jobs, but they're really feeling like they're not being valued and that they're not allowed to teach the kids the way the kids need to be taught."
10News reached out to the district for comment. Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre sent the following statement by email:
"Thus far, the Knox County Schools retirement and resignation numbers appear to be fairly typical and in line with recent years. We do expect a certain amount of turnover given that the Knox County Schools employs about 4,500 certified personnel.
Regardless, I strongly believe that improving support structures for teachers and enhancing compensation must remain key priorities in order to retain and recruit the very best talent for our school system.
Our retirees have given a lifetime educating and serving our children. I greatly appreciate their service to the children of the Knox County Schools and their important role in preparing our students succeed in college, career and life."