WOODSTOCK – Teacher turnover dropped this year for Shenandoah County Public Schools.

The turnover rate stands at 11 percent, down from the 15 percent the district has experienced the last two years, said Linda Hodges, Director of Human Resources.

Schools Superintendent Mark Johnston noted that turnover is an expensive proposition as they invest in the professional development and training of staff so that they can provide the greatest benefit possible for students.

“When staff then leave, after all of that investment, it has a negative effect on student achievement,” Johnston said. “We are pleased with the substantial drop in our turnover rate and will continue to strive to make Shenandoah County Public Schools a desirable place for teachers, staff, and our students.”

Part of the turnover rate includes 14 underperforming teachers who left in lieu of termination. School administers pointed out if those teachers were removed from the figure the turnover rate would have been closer to 8 percent, Hodges said.

The 11 percent turnover rate is the third highest ranking among schools in the area.

Warren County Public Schools turnover rate of 15 percent was the highest among area schools. Winchester schools, at 13 percent, came in with the second highest teacher turnover rate in the area, Hodges said.

In 2018, the district experienced 102 vacancies in certified staff, such as teachers; they were able to fill 92 of them.

Of those hired, 79 were teachers, four of whom had left and returned to the district.

“I think they saw we were serious about narrowing the wage gap and that there was a shift in respect in the county for teachers,” said School Board member Cynthia Walsh.

A new teacher in Shenandoah County Public School district can expect to make $42,182, according to the pay scale on the district’s website.

A teacher with 10 years experience can expect to make $47,460 and a teacher with 20 years experience is eligible to make $53,315.

Hodges said 19 percent of the teachers who left the Shenandoah County district in the 2017- 2018 school year had 21 or more years of experience. Several of those who left were retirements. That is compared to 18 percent in the 2016-2017 school year.

The district, in filling teacher positions, was able to replace 10 percent of its positions with teachers who had 21 plus years of experience.

“We were able this year to hire more people with experience. This is exciting,” Hodges said.

Warren County Superintendent L. Gregory Drescher could not confirm his turnover rate, but he estimated it at 14 percent, still in the realm of the area’s highest turnover rate.

“A high number, I would say 80 percent or more, say it’s salary,” Drescher said.

Warren County Public Schools this year did obtain a 2 percent salary increase, which was similar to the increase of surrounding counties, which only allowed the district to keep pace with other districts, Drescher said.

The situation with the Warren County Public Schools will not change until they address the wage gap, he said.

“It’s a market. There are only so many teachers,” Drescher said, adding he could not blame anyone for going to where they would earn more money.

A new teacher with no prior experience can expect to make $43,247, according to the pay scale posted on the Warren County Public Schools website. A teacher with 10 years of experience can make $45,782 and a teacher with 20 years experience is in line to make $50,749, according to the website.

The district and the county have plans to conduct a comprehensive salary and benefits study to compare salaries and benefits of everyone in the school, as well as the number of employees the schools have working in their departments. Like many districts, Warren County schools in recent years had to reduce staffing levels.

“Then we can get accurate information to the public to say ‘this is where we stand with salaries and staffing levels,’ ” Drescher said.

Studies have shown salary is one factor that contributes to teacher retention.

One of those studies is a 2001 report titled Teacher Turnover, Teacher Shortages, and the Organization of Schools by Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania’s Consortium for Policy Research in Education.

“The data show that, in particular, low salaries, inadequate support from the school administration, student discipline problems, and limited faculty input into school decision-making all contribute to higher rates of turnover, after controlling for the characteristics of both teachers and schools,” the report stated.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect the correct salaries for a Warren County teacher with 10 and 20 years experience.