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Retaining young teachers a challenge for CKSD

When Nate Andrews was hired as an English teacher at Olympic High School four years ago, he was torn.

He loved his job and the support he had from Olympic staff members, but he was disappointed by what the community had to offer.

“I was young and socially it was not a very attractive place to be. I found myself going to Seattle a lot,” Andrews said.

He realized he was not alone as he watched other young people leave the district for the same reasons and he decided to get involved with making new teachers feel welcome.

With the help of the Central Kitsap Education Association, Andrews recently started a social group for teachers who are new to the district or to the profession. The group has met just once, on a Friday afternoon at the Silver City Brewing Company. More than 20 people attended, Andrews said.

With schools around the state suffering from a shortage of teachers, retaining employees is becoming critical. The Central Kitsap School District is taking steps to make the area more attractive for people who have relocated — both those who are new to the district and those who are new to the profession.

“Once we get people here we want to keep them here,” said Scott Menard, the assistant superintendent for human resources at the Central Kitsap School District. “For teachers new to the area we need to help them establish roots.”

Menard said people who move here but don’t have family living in the area are most likely to leave.

As Andrews takes on a retention from a social angle, the district is addressing it from a classroom angle.

Teachers who are new to the profession are assigned a mentor from their building, according to Diane Fox Winger, CKSD mentor teacher. The state even funds substitute teachers if the two need to meet during classroom hours.

Jessica Henderson, a fifth-grade teacher at Woodlands Elementary, and Ginger Lancaster, a fifth-grade teacher at Cougar Valley Elementary, said meetings with their mentors are informal but helpful.

“Without that one person it would be hard,” Lancaster said. “I have a sounding board and I’m not always bugging the principal.”

Said Henderson, “I think it’s beneficial to have somebody in school looking out for you.”

The district also operates a local mentor program, headed by Winger. She observes new teachers while they work and organizes monthly meetings.

“It began as a support group and has evolved into practical staff support,” Winger said.

Teachers can earn clock hours, which help them advance on the pay scale, for attending the once-a-month training sessions.

On Tuesday, Nov. 13, two dozen teachers listened to Kim Marcum, the principal of Brownsville Elementary, talk about the nuances of effective discipline.

“Authority isn’t as impressive as we think it is and (principals) aren’t the big guns you might think,” Marcum said.

She gave advice for balancing compliments with reprimands and for working with parents. She also invited comments and questions.

“We’ve got to remember that we are creating the people who are going to be our neighbors,” Marcum said.

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