Fulton County school leaders luring more teachers in as hundreds depart

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — One of the metro’s largest school districts is trying to entice educators to join their ranks after a tough year for everyone.

Fulton County Schools, for example, is offering up to a $5,000 signing bonus to new special education teachers and all teachers will get a 2% raise next month.

“We’re going to always have to be thinking differently, and using unique approaches to get teachers,” said Ron Wade, the district’s chief talent officer.

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Channel 2′s Mike Petchenik took a look at teacher departure numbers after interviewing a veteran educator who abruptly resigned from her position after 12 years with the district.

“I really enjoyed the students, you know, they wanted to learn,” said the teacher, who asked Petchenik not to identify her.

She claims things took a turn after a student complained she’d talked about God during a class. She said her principal required her to meet with Wade at the central office.

“Once Mr. Wade threatened me with possible loss of certification, I said, ‘I can’t take a chance in this county anymore.’”

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The teacher claims despite the pandemic and other issues, she would have stayed in her position, but felt district leadership didn’t have her back.

“The administration should be there to support the teachers and they’re not doing that,” she said.

According to numbers Petchenik obtained through an open records request, during the 2019-2020 year, 717 teachers resigned and another 82 teachers retired.

During the 2020-2021 year, the district told Petchenik, 626 teachers resigned and another 129 teachers retired.

Those numbers account for roughly 10% of the teacher population.

“It was a tough year for everyone,” Wade told Channel 2 Action News. We have one of the lowest years and teacher vacancies ever, but we’re having a harder time trying to get teachers to leave their current positions.”

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Wade said he’s not overly concerned about the departures, pointing out the district does have a 90% teacher retention rate.

“Without question, that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to be happy,” he said. “But we try to do our best to make this a good place to work.”

The teacher who resigned had this advice for the district as it recruits new educators.

“Treat teachers better,” she said. “You know, listen, listen to your teachers.”