Student discipline cited as reason teachers are leaving CMSD

October 11, 2017 11:10:32 AM

Isabelle Altman - [email protected]


Forty-nine percent of Columbus Municipal School District employees who responded to an anonymous employee exit survey last year reported they would not recommend the district as a place to work. 


CMSD personnel director Gregory Hunley presented what he called the "highlights" of the 45 survey responses to the district's board of trustees at its monthly meeting Tuesday. During the meeting, he said some teachers had indicated student discipline as being "out of control." Some respondents listed discipline as among the things they liked least about the district and some even cited it as the reason they left. 


Superintendent Philip Hickman said discipline is a national issue with younger teachers and pointed out that a large percentage of the respondents -- 47 percent -- had only been with the district for one to three years.  


"It's a national trend that young teachers leave within one to three years," he told the board. 


It's difficult for first-year teachers to adjust to going straight from their university education to being in charge of a classroom full of younger students, he said. 


Hickman told the board he is working with area universities, particularly Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, to make sure university students studying to be teachers spend more of their education working with teachers already in classrooms, as a way to get them used to classroom management. 


Hickman also didn't indicate he saw the 49 percent number as being a problem, noting he'd rather focus on the 51 percent of positive responses. 


"The majority of (respondents) said they (would recommend the district)," he told The Dispatch. "... You can write a negative or you can write a positive." 


Hickman added that responses had indicated his own expectations of teachers as something employees leaving said they liked best about the district. 


Board member Currie Fisher said she wanted to get a closer look at the surveys to see what reasons those 49 percent of respondents had for leaving. 


"Forty-nine percent is pretty high in terms of the number of employees," she said. "... But you have to take into account reasons for separation, performance while on the job, you have to consider all of those things." 


Board President Jason Spears requested Hunley provide copies of the survey to the board. He, Fisher and board member Jo Shumake said they planned to look at the survey results more closely.  


In the responses, 42 percent of those leaving said they had accepted other employment and 24 percent left for personal reasons such as family needs and relocation. Thirty-two percent listed "other," in which employees could write the specific reasons for leaving. Employees who answered "other" were the ones who cited discipline problems, as well as lack of support for teachers. 


Respondents cited working with students and colleagues as some of the things they liked best about working in the district.