Education Matters: Elmore County School (April 2024)

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The widely-reported teacher shortage has significantly impacted Elmore County Schools. While educator staffing has been an ongoing struggle across the state, shortages have worsened in certain areas. Openings for special education teachers are the most difficult positions to fill, followed closely by secondary teachers. Another contributing factor is the declining number of college students seeking education degrees.

At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, we assembled a Teacher Retention Task Force composed of a teacher representative, selected by the teachers, from each school. In its third year, the Task Force has already met five times this school year, with additional meetings planned. Topics of discussion have included changes to the school calendar, increasing personnel to address truancy and assist with discipline in each community, and securing additional personnel to help with mental health needs. We continue to explore ways to enhance communication throughout the district.

The Task Force developed a teacher survey which is administered annually in January. The surveys were sent out to each school’s faculty by the Task Force member at that school. All survey responses are anonymous. Task Force members analyzed the data from the surveys and presented a summary of the data to school administrators in grade band groups as well as Central Office administrators. After surveys were analyzed, discussed, and presented to school and Central Office administrators, they presented their findings and recommendations to our Board members.

The data from the 2022, 2023, and 2024 surveys revealed specific areas of concern that were common across all three grade bands. The overarching theme was the need for more and better communication between administrators and teachers, to include establishing better relationships between central office administrators and teachers, as well as school administrators and teachers. Survey results also showed curriculum and assessments as an area of concern. The Task Force has discussed options to address this concern while meeting state and federal requirements. Finally, student apathy was identified as a concern and the Task Force is exploring ways to combat this issue.

Research shows that compared to any other aspect of schooling, teachers have the greatest impact on student achievement. It is in the best interests of our students to keep our teachers in the classroom and remove or reduce barriers to their ability to focus on providing high-quality instruction. Our Teacher Retention Task Force actively examines the reasons teachers are leaving, or contemplating leaving, the profession and what we can do to encourage them to continue teaching in Elmore County. Our teachers are at the heart of our purpose: Every Student Empowered ~ Every Student Succeeds!

Richard Dennis is the Superintendent of Education for Elmore County Schools. He is a 1983 graduate of Holtville High School. He served 21 years as a high school principal at Holtville High, Wetumpka High and most recently, Prattville High. He and wife, Leslie (also an educator) have three sons and a daughter.


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