(WGGB/WSHM) - The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many aspects of education, but it hasn’t appeared to significantly affect teacher retention rates.
The statewide average for 2021 is about 88%, consistent with previous years.
Western Mass News checked in with local districts to see how they fared and found their numbers were comparable to the state.
In Springfield, 86.2% of teachers returned. Similar to the previous years, but slightly below the state average.
In a statement sent to Western Mass News, Springfield Public School Communication Officer, Azell Cavaan said, "We are fortunate in that teacher vacancies throughout our district tend to be distributed evenly amongst our more than 60 schools. For us, that means a school may be short a teacher or two, but none of our schools are likely experiencing a widespread shortage."
She goes on to add...
"Thankfully, we have systems in place that provide schools with options of employing long-term substitute teachers, who essentially, function as classroom teachers. We are currently engaged in several programs that provide pathways for paraprofessionals to become teachers and also for Springfield Public Schools students to become Springfield Public Schools teachers."
Azell told Western Mass News it's important to note the state data report of vacancies also includes educators who may have transferred to other schools within the district.
In Westfield, the district reported an 88.8% retention rate.
Western Mass News reached out to the Superintendent of Westfield Public Schools who said the pandemic has caused additional turnover.
“This year we have 50 new teachers and previous years it was 10, 15 or 20,” said Stefan Czaporowski, Westfield Public Schools Superintendent.
Overall, he said the retention rate has been stable, which he credits to having open communication with his staff on decisions and processes.
Chicopee Public School’s teacher retention rate was above the state average.
“The retention rate was on par with similar years,” said Matthew T. Francis, Assistant Superintendent of Chicopee Public Schools.
At Chicopee Public Schools, 91.6% of teachers returned. This is slightly up from 2020 and 2019.
“Based off everything from the last 18 months that educators, and not just teachers, all the educators within the building, custodians, paraprofessionals, nursing staff, so on and so forth, administrators, being above 90 percent, I think is successful,” said Francis.
Francis said the success can also be credited to a culture and climate created by the superintendent and resources made available for faculty and staff to better perform their jobs.
And it's a similar story at Northampton Public Schools. The superintendent, John Provost, said their retention rate tracked very closely with the state-wide average.
Northampton schools reported retaining 87% of teacher, comparable to 2020 and 2019.
Provost said they’ve worked hard to have favorable working environments for staff.
“Our class sizes are smaller than the state-wide average class size, we have a lot of support through our inclusion program, so that we have a high number of trained individuals going in and out and classrooms.,” explained Provost.
He said that it has not been easy for his staff;
“Dealing with the pandemic itself was highly stressful for teachers as they went from very little notice from normal modes of operation to standing up online learning and then having that extend for not only weeks or months, but for most of the year.”
School districts across the area have open positions, mainly for roles that have previously been difficult to fill, like special education teachers.
At Westfield Public Schools, the superintendent said there have been teacher shortages in other disciplines as well.
“I am worried for the future because there are less people going into the field,” said Czaporowski.