Douglas County Keeps Teachers | RecordCourier.com

Douglas County Keeps Teachers

by Maggie O'Neill, Staff Writer

School districts gain and lose teachers, but Douglas County is particularly distinguishable for keeping its teachers from going to other school districts.

For two years in a row, the Douglas County school district has not lost a single teacher to another school district in Nevada or any other state.

“I think (that) says a lot,” said Douglas County Human Resources Administrator Norma Villase-or. “People have been with us for a while because the district does care about its employees.”

That wasn’t the only good news Villase-or shared with school board members at the October 8 meeting.

Of the 82 licensed employees who left in the the 2001-2002 school year, more than 10 percent returned to college to pursue higher education, she said.

To be licensed means the staff member has teaching credentials or other credentials as required to be in a school setting. Licensed professionals include teachers, administrators and school psychologists.

“I think it’s excellent people are returning to school,” Villase-or said. “I think they’re realizing teaching is a noble profession.”

Based on their exit interviews, she thinks those seeking higher education will return to the Douglas County education system.

Villase-or said what brings staff members back and what keeps them here D besides competitive salaries D is a back and forth flow of communication between administrators and staff and the value placed on staff by administrators.

“It’s the recognition and appreciation of the employees for all the hard work they do,” she said.

The county offers a beginning salary of $29,957 for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree with no previous experience.

“(Pay) will go up from there depending on education and years of experience,” Douglas County Assistant Superintendent Rich Alexander said. “Not all new hires were hired at that level.”

Teaching salaries in Nevada are ranked 15th in the nation, according to the American Federation of Teachers, with the average Nevada teacher salary more than $42,000.

In Douglas County, 29 new hires for the 2002-2003 school year came from 11 other states D many from California, and seven from Montana D and 14 from Nevada.

“Our priority is to hire the best people we can find,” Alexander said. “We recruit from anywhere. The larger the pool of candidates the better.”

With the enrollment increase of nearly 200 students in Douglas County this year, 11 new teaching positions at the elementary and middle school levels were created to compensate for the student bulge at the first-grade and middle school levels.

A state grant to help schools provide intensive reading programs in elementary schools resulted in eight new positions.

Despite new hires, 82 licensed staff left Douglas County. Three retired, 18 pursued new careers and eight were terminated.

The terminations actually reveal administrators are becoming proactive in assessing teacher performance early on, Villase-or said.

New hires are on a probationary period for six months. The employer can review and evaluate their performance, Villase-or said. Once the probationary period ends, the process to terminate an employee is more complex.

“(The terminations) show (administrators are) really starting to use the probationary period,” she said.

She said a true measure of Douglas County teachers is to look at Douglas County student test scores compared to state and nation-wide scores.

“Students are doing very, very well, and I think that’s a real tribute to the teachers and the district,” she said. “I think (our) teachers really care.”

n R-C Staff Writer Maggie O’Neill can be reached by e-mail at mo’neill@recordcourier.com