Retaining staff still a problem for Re-2
RIFLE – Garfield School District Re-2 administrators have learned in the past couple of years that it’s difficult to recruit and retain teachers in the district.The main reason: the lack of affordable housing in the area, as Superintendent Gary Pack sees it.”Attainable housing. Someway, somehow, we are going to have to come up with some kind of attainable housing in the area before we will ever be able to retain our teachers,” Pack said. “Some [prospective teachers] had to turn us down because they couldn’t find a place to stay.”Last year the district hired approximately 75 new employees, from custodians to administrators; 38 were teachers. This year the district has hired about the same amount with approximately 75 positions filled, about a 15 percent turnover rate, according to Pack.This year the district also hired an additional 16 teachers to fill new positions districtwide due to growth and staffing for a first-year senior class at Coal Ridge High School.”You have to have people to maintain the class sizes we have,” Pack said. “As you grow you have to add more people.”Pack said it’s a tough market for state service providers because of the high housing costs and competitive wages paid by industries like oil and gas production.”Everywhere you go there is help-wanted signs around,” Pack said. “People can find more work in the valley than they have the ability to work. The booming economy and private industry wages are affecting the availability of workers to fill service positions, and we can’t compete with the wages private industry is paying.”A first-year teacher’s salary is $33,254 at Re-2.Currently Re-2 is three teachers short of a full staff, according to Pack, but the show must go on. The first day of class will come with, or without, those positions filled.”We will continue to do what we can,” Pack said. “We will have school on Aug. 20 regardless.”It’s the same story at the district’s bus barn. Re-2 director of transportation Sanja Morgan said her department is currently running about eight drivers short of a full staff.That’s a pretty similar story to last year.”What we ended up doing last year was encourage and pay coaches to drive their own trips,” Morgan said. “Those who could do small trips to sporting events were happy to help out. That is the only way we got the sports trips and the routes all covered.”Starting bus drivers for Re-2 are paid $14.44 an hour with an additional $.50 per hour paid at the end of the school year as a bonus. Morgan agreed with Pack that the district competes with the oil and gas development industries for drivers with Commercial Driver’s Licenses. But Pack pointed out that the district has a set budget each year, and voters would have to approve pay-rate increases during elections in order to raise wages in the district.Regardless if Re-2 has enough teachers or drivers, school starts on Aug. 20. Morgan said she is going to do all she can to cover the routes.”We’re hoping to have enough drivers when school starts,” Morgan said. “If not we’ll do whatever we can to provide the service.”Contact John Gardner: firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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