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Letter: District’s teacher turnover rate a valid reason for community concern

Dear Editor,

When people witness injustice where their children are concerned things tend to get heated and fast. Rightly so. Any parent worth their salt is going to step up and defend and protect the interest of their child.

At the May 18, 2021, Nelson County Board meeting, I observed several parents with legitimate concerns speak with a ton of research to back up every point they were making. Not only were their points valid and well researched there were professionals who process the statistics and information for a living. They all spoke and presented some very real and eye opening information regarding our school district. But not just our district, there was also the same information for every surrounding district, to compare and balance out what they were finding.

So it came as a surprise to read an opinion piece by a seasoned journalist, Jim Brooks, essentially calling these parents mudslingers. What is mudslinging? According to the Merriam-Webster on my desk: the making of malicious verbal attacks, as against a political opponent. Malicious: having a desire to cause harm.

I don’t think a single one of those parents want to cause harm. On the contrary, I think what they want is to recover what was once a wonderful school system.

This same seasoned journalist cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a major factor in the number of teachers who left Nelson County. At least he did his homework and confirmed the very high turnover rate (31.3 percent). But citing COVID-19 as a major contributing factor, that “many older teachers made the decision to retire last year.” By that logic the numbers in surrounding counties should have jumped significantly. But they didn’t. Here are the numbers he did not tell you:

2019-20 school year teacher turnover rates

  • State average: 18.2,
  • Nelson Co.: 31.3,
  • Washington Co.: 13.4,
  • LaRue Co.: 8.4,
  • Spencer Co.: 7.2,
  • Bullitt Co.: 15.3

Well you can argue that maybe Nelson County had more teachers ready to retire. So let’s look at the previous year.

2018-19 school year teacher turnover rates

  • State average: 18.4 (went down .2 percent in 19-20),
  • Nelson Co.: 24.7 (went up 6.6 percent in 19-20),
  • Washington Co.: 12.5 (went up 1.2 percent in 19-20),
  • LaRue Co.: 12.2 (went down 3.8 percent in 19-20),
  • Spencer Co.: 13.9 (went down 6.7 percent in 19-20),
  • Bullitt Co.: 20.2 (went down 4.9 percent in 19-20).

So what is that telling us? In the year of the pandemic, when Mr. Brooks is claiming enough teachers retired or moved into administrative positions, the majority of the surrounding districts actually saw a downward trend in turnover rates. But not Nelson County. No, we had an increase of 6.6. Washington County had an increase of 1.2.

But even looking at the numbers from the 2018-19 school year Nelson County is still 6.3 percent higher than the state average. That should be a red flag. The numbers are concerning and district leadership should answer for what is happening here. The parents who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting have legitimate concerns and painting them as a malicious social media mob is extreme and disingenuous.

By the way, Mr. Brooks, it’s unprofessional to use slang terms in journalism, even in an opinion piece, but that’s just my opinion.

Respectfully,

Vanessa Hurst
New Haven, Kentucky

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