Vacancies at Chapel Hill High approach almost 20 percent of staff | Orange County | Indy Week
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Vacancies at Chapel Hill High approach almost 20 percent of staff 

Two months after a teacher survey revealed low morale at Chapel Hill High School, a state listing of vacated jobs show a large number of open positions there.

As of Tuesday, the N.C. Department of Instruction reports that of the 78 positions open in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, 19 of the vacancies are at Chapel Hill High. That's just less than 20 percent of the school's entire staff, the most of any school within the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system.

(Since some school systems don't report figures the same way, it's difficult to compare numbers Triangle-wide.)

All but one of the vacated positions at Chapel Hill High are teaching positions. Many of the openings are the result of resignations since school ended in June. Sources at the school, who requested confidentiality to protect their jobs, say only a handful of the departures were planned retirements.

Jamezetta Bedford, chairwoman of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, said she had not seen the turnover numbers, but she expects to discuss the job openings during a special closed session meeting of the school board Thursday.

"I have no idea (why the teachers left)," said Bedford. "We'll have to look and see if we can get the positions filled." Teachers are set to return to work Aug. 15 in Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. Students return Aug. 25.

The vacancies at Chapel Hill High include three in career and technical education, three in math, three in science and two in English. Many teachers who have resigned declined to discuss their reasons with the INDY.

Facing relatively low pay and the loss of tenure status, education leaders in North Carolina have long feared teachers will leave the state in droves this summer. But it's been a particularly troubling year for educators at Chapel Hill High, in which teachers accused new Principal Sulura Jackson of plagiarizing her educational notes and letters to parents. Teachers reportedly felt marginalized by school and system administrators.

A state job satisfaction survey released this spring for the school showed startlingly low approval numbers for school leadership, with less than a third of teachers saying they agree with the statement that faculty and staff have a "shared vision."

Only 13 percent reported an "atmosphere of trust and respect" in the school, while just 19 percent said school leadership "consistently supports teachers." The numbers lagged far behind those reported in other schools in the system and across the state.

Jackson did not return an INDY phone call, but Arasi Adkins, executive director of human resources for the school system, said resignations were up 20 percent across the district this year.

"Many of our teachers are taking jobs in other districts or states due to higher salaries," Adkins said. "Unfortunately, because they are waiting for confirmation on their new jobs, the resignations are coming in later than in previous years. Chapel Hill High had a recent surge in late resignations."

Adkins said the school system has hired 50 new teachers in the last two weeks, and officials expect they will have all of the vacancies filled by the start of the new school year in three weeks.

Last month, the school board approved $1,500 signing bonuses for teachers in math, science and exceptional children programs. Because of the economic recession, the board did not approve bonuses in 2009-2010, but after teachers in those subjects left to neighboring school systems, the bonus was reinstated.

"It's just very difficult to retain and recruit for our teachers," said Bedford.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Abandoning ship"

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