Stand Up Manitou questions spike in teacher turnover


Meghan Taylor

When there is a high teacher turnover rate, students can be uncertain of what teachers will still be working at their school the next year.

Meghan Taylor, Reporter

Since 2021, Manitou Springs School District has been experiencing a spike in their teacher turnover rate, the likes of which had never been seen before in the Pikes Peak region. Stand Up Manitou, an organization founded by parents, staff, former staff and members of the community, began asking the Board of Education to look into why the spike happened, but were met with no response or action. So, in the Spring of 2022, Stand Up Manitou began investigating the issue themselves. 

Stand Up Manitou’s survey, conducted with Newmeasures LLC and completed by 87% of the 61 former staff members contacted, said the top two reasons for leaving were district leadership and district culture. The respondents had a lack of trust in the leadership and lacked confidence in the future of the district. 

I have seen leadership who does not appreciate the benefit of criticality and therefore targets staff members and pushes them out of the building,” Jessica Moen, English teacher at Manitou Springs High School said. “This should not happen in a transparent leadership model, as leaders’ welcome critical inquiry and engage in dynamic discourse rather than working from a do-as-I-say model.”

The timing of the spike makes many question the need for the survey, as the turnover spike first occurred during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Newmeasures survey states that the two aren’t entirely correlated. COVID was not in the top 10 reasons for resignation from the surveyed staff members, even though it was listed as an option.

Losing teachers didn’t begin or end with COVID,” Ethan Anderson, student at Manitou Springs High School said.  “It just made things a lot worse.” 

The survey found that the district attrition rate went from between 8.43% and 8.77% in the 2019 to 2020 fiscal years to between 24.31% to 23.56% in the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years. 

“District 14 went from the lowest turnover in our region to the highest,” Brenda Holmes-Stanciu, an MSHS parent and Stand-Up Manitou representative said. “This trajectory is not the norm for other districts in our region. This is why the numbers don’t support the statement that what District 14 experienced is happening everywhere.

Having the newfound highest turnover rate in the region creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and challenges the opportunities currently in place for students. “The newer teachers you constantly have, the lower quality of education you’re going to get,” Anderson said. 

A lower education quality could mean many things for students, but it ultimately means that students receive less than their teachers got, or their parents. Current students are the future of the world and deserve to be unlimited in their education. 

Staff retention and turn-over has the potential to limit opportunities for students because, contrary to the propaganda around educational professionals, teaching is an art and not all teachers are equally effective, passionate, or engaged,” Moen said. “When we lose a staff member that contributes effectively to the academic rigor and opportunities of our district, it impacts the culture and casts a shadow of insecurity on those who remain.”

“When we lose a staff member that contributes effectively to the academic rigor and opportunities of our district, it impacts the culture and casts a shadow of insecurity on those who remain.”

— Jessica Moen

High attrition rates lead to academic uncertainty for students. With new teachers and administration every year, students aren’t completely stable in their education.

“When you have a really high turnover rate like we do now, there’s this uncertainty, where you really have no idea how many of these people are going to be here next year,” Anderson said. “It’s so strange at the beginning of the year, walking down the hallway and realizing there are five teachers who you’ve never seen before.”

As both teachers and administrators come and go from the district, the impact on students is high. Students build confidence and trust with certain staff members and that confidence can become difficult to achieve when that trust has to be continuously rebuilt. 

“I believe students, as humans, find change to be unsettling,” Moen said. “Students create a rapport and connection to specific teachers and become excited to learn content with a specific teacher and when that teacher changes, it causes stress to students.”

Students that are under stress are affected in how well they’re able to adjust to life and education after high school, an issue and theme that has gone on for too long in the district and requires a change, and soon. 

“I believe the way forward lies in open discourse and transparency. We need people to be honest and open to find the truth behind the propaganda and look at implementing research-based innovative ways to move out of the bureaucratic status quo and into the current century,” Moen said. “Our staff and students deserve it.”