Unveiling the real issues: The truth about teacher attrition in Chatham County

By Amy Kappelman

Pittsboro, NC – The following is the pre-written text of the statement Amy Kappelman presented to the Chatham County Schools Board during the public input portion of the board meeting on Monday, February 12, 2024.

Amy Kappelman, a mom with four children attending Chatham County Schools speaks to the Chatham County Schools Board.

My name is Amy Kappelman and I’m a mom of four students in Chatham County Schools. I want to thank the Chatham County Association of Educators for conducting a staff survey which has shown that 68% of the staff leaves due to pay. What hasn’t been discussed is that 54% are leaving due to student discipline, 53% due to understaffing burdens and 44% due to problems with leadership.

Why aren’t we talking about those issues? Why are we only casting blame at the feet of NC legislators? Perhaps our local leaders can take a hard look at the detrimental impact their own decisions may be having on faculty and staff climate.

According to the DPI, the General Assembly sets a minimum pay based on the educator’s years of experience and education level and the local school districts and board of education may approve additional funds to the educator. Our county has the 50th highest local supplement of the 120 school districts in the state — that’s $13,504 per student.

Is our local supplement really the core issue? If our district can find the money to raise our superintendent’s salary by 115% (from about $112,000 to about $240,000) and add more than $300,000 to our annual budget for Excellence and Equity staff and teams in our schools, you can find the money to pay our teachers, bus drivers and assistants more. 
[Editor’s note: See Dr. Jackson’s salary: What really happened in 2021 for clarification as to the “increase” in the superintendent’s salary]

I applaud the efforts to implement “Opportunity Chatham” to help our teachers. Mr. Messer has done an exceptional job of maintaining a budget that continues to be financially solvent with zero debt.

But what about those other reasons for teachers leaving our schools? What are we doing to create an environment where misbehaving students have consequences and teachers can teach? Our teachers are in a situation with their hands tied with ineffective disciplinary measures and no substantive support from their districts. Teachers are afraid to speak up about equity training sessions that are a waste of time and resources.

If you want equity, the best equalizer is education. Teachers just want to teach. Teachers are the backbone of our schools and our most important resource. The issue in schools is not a funding problem but a priorities problem.

Chatham County Schools could differentiate itself from other districts and attract more teachers by prioritizing our funds towards their salaries and benefits first and foremost while focusing on the fundamental educational needs of our students.