Letter – Be bold to retain teachers

Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Recently Isle of Wight County Schools started advertising bonuses for new teachers. I applaud the effort; undoubtedly, the competition for teachers remains intense and will remain so for the foreseeable future. 

However, I don’t see a scenario allowing IWCS to outspend regional school districts to solve this. In addition to remaining competitive with salaries, IWCS needs to take bold steps to build a “second to none” culture that attracts teachers and, more importantly, retains the good teachers already here.

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This week they have an opportunity to show teachers that Isle of Wight is different by being transparent about how decisions are made to transfer employees between schools and how teachers are treated if they resign. The ability to force transfer teachers within the county is a necessary tool. Still, they should do it transparently, and teachers deserve to know how they are selected for transfer. The current policy does not do this.

Admittedly, supporting teacher resignations seems like a counterintuitive way to increase retention. Culturally, public education has used the threat of revoking teaching licenses for years as a means of economic coercion to keep teachers from leaving their jobs.

The reality is no teacher in Virginia since at least 2000 has had their license revoked for resigning (three have had their license suspended). The threat of revoking licenses and opaque transfer decisions silences dissent, encourages retaliation and keeps legitimate criticism from being heard.  

Since this is not exclusive to IWCS, there is an opportunity to be bold, reject these antiquated ways of doing business and show teachers that leaders within IWCS aren’t above criticism. Additionally, IWCS should prioritize teacher retention over test scores in its evaluation of principals and senior administrators.

IWCS should also reject the “expectation” among school divisions not to hire teachers who resign during the school year. Outside of the questionable legality of colluding with other divisions on hiring practices, this advantages larger and wealthier school districts with worse retention issues. If a good teacher wants to leave a higher paying division, we should welcome them.


Lewis Edmonds