Teacher exodus a worry at Grand Ledge schools

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By Paige Wester
Living In The Ledge Staff Reporter

As the school year started in September, concern grew throughout the city of Grand Ledge due to the loss of teachers and the lack of funding from the previous year.

Since last year, 19 teachers in Grand Ledge have left the district and 12 of those teachers retired.

Molly Markel, a Grand Ledge resident and also a parent in the school district, said that her concern for her kids’ proper education is growing more and more.

“I know that my daughter had substitute teachers to start off her sophomore year because there was a shortage of teachers,” said Markel. “It concerns me that I have to question if my children are getting the education they deserve.”

Markel, who has two kids in the Grand Ledge School District, said she and many other parents are desperate to see a change with funding throughout the schools.

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Grand Ledge High School. Photo by Paige Wester

With 10 different schools and 5,100 students within the Grand Ledge School District, teachers are in high demand, but with the loss of funds within the district it has caused many teachers to retire due to a lack of pay increases after working at the district for many years.

Dr. Brian Metcalf, Grand Ledge superintendent, said that the school district has a severe money crunch right now compared to previous years.

“One of the main reasons for this is due to the retirement system,” Metcalf said. “We are paying around $9.1 million compared to $4.8 million five years ago.”

Having highly-qualified teachers is essential to student success, but what happens when teachers who are qualified aren’t getting the desired pay they believe they deserve?

Molly Markel, a former education professor at Kent State University, said that smaller towns tend to struggle when it comes to funding for their school district.

“Most teachers want to work in big cities, so smaller cities have trouble attracting the right kind of people,” Markel said. “Experienced teachers are sometimes hard to recruit to a small town unfortunately.”

Markel, who has researched different economic backgrounds between cities and schools her entire life, said that practically all teachers want to hear that they have a set contract, instead of being bounced around from district to district because of uncertainty.

Concerns not only from parents and teachers are an issue, but also from current students.

“I have seen so many teachers who have been here for years resign or retire because they aren’t satisfied,” Megan Smith, student at Grand Ledge High School said. “It is hard to see people you care about leave so suddenly.”

With so many teachers questioning their decisions to work for the Grand Ledge School District for some people it hits very close to home.

City of Grand Ledge. Photo by Paige Wester

City of Grand Ledge. Photo by Paige Wester

Carol Novak, a resident of Grand Ledge, sad that her mother has worked at the school district for years and unfortunately had to retire due to pay issues.

“Teaching was her life,” said Novak. “It is extremely unfortunate that she had to go out that way, but things have to change before they get worse.”

Metcalf said he is keeping a close eye on funding for the school district and to bettering the education program, so that everyone is satisfied.

“We don’t only want teachers and parents happy, but we want our students happy,” said Metcalf. “They are the ones who can really hurt from teachers resigning.”

Metcalf said students miss out on valuable education because good teachers are leaving the profession, but the district is hiring in new teachers and discussing contracts with future employees.

There will be a school board meeting held on Dec. 14 or visit the Grand Ledge Public School website.

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