Warren County administrators link turnover, school test results

FRONT ROYAL — After two Warren County Schools, Ressie Jeffries Elementary School and Skyline High School, failed to meet state accreditation standards for the 2017-18 school year, district administrators pointed to at least one culprit: high turnover among staff.

In a school board retreat on Wednesday, Lisa Rudacille, director of elementary instruction for the district and former principal at Ressie Jeffries, said that Ressie Jeffries has had difficulty keeping staff members.

“It’s been eight years since I’ve been at Ressie Jeffries, and I could probably count on one hand the number of teachers who are still there from when I was there,” Rudacille said.

Pointing to the science scores at Ressie Jeffries, Rudacille said that high turnover could be making it harder for schools to score well in the annual Standards of Learning tests.

“Over the past three years there (at Ressie Jeffries), there has been 100 percent turnover in their fifth grade team,” Rudacille said. “There was a year where every single teacher on the team was a brand new teacher.”

Last year, Ressie Jeffries scored 61 in science. The Virginia Department of Education has set its benchmark expected score for the science tests at 70.

Rudacille added that Ressie Jeffries has had four principals in the past eight years.

“The significant change in leadership there, too, is difficult,” Rudacille said.

But while Ressie Jeffries is the only school in the district that is set to have its accreditation denied for the 2017-18 school year, having failed to meet state standards four years in a row, Superintendent Greg Drescher said it is not alone in its problems with high turnover.

“It’s across the board,” Drescher said during the retreat. “It’s 25 percent of our teachers every two years.”

This summer, the district hired 70 teachers, 57 of whom were replacing teachers that had left. (Drescher said in an interview with the Northern Virginia Daily earlier this month that the remaining 13 teachers were hired because of the new middle school.)

Drescher said during the retreat that other schools besides Ressie Jeffries have also had problems keeping principals.

At the end of the retreat, Drescher said that the school board will discuss turnover rates and teacher salary scales during the next work session at 5 p.m. Sept. 20.

Skyline High School is slated to be partially accredited in the 2017-18 school year, after meeting state standards for full accreditation last year. The school received a score of 73 in English, two points shy of the state benchmark expectations.

Other than Skyline High School and Ressie Jeffries Elementary School and the two middle schools, all of the schools in the district will be fully accredited through 2018-19. The middle schools will both be conditionally accredited as new schools for the 2017-18 school year.