Aspen Community School teachers making the grade | AspenTimes.com
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Aspen Community School teachers making the grade

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

WOODY CREEK – When it comes to retaining teachers, the Aspen Community School has earned an A+.

The charter school, located in Woody Creek, has seen 100 percent teacher retention for the past three years.

“We’ve never had a lot of turnover, but this is pretty incredible,” said ACS Principal Jim Gilchrist.

Gilchrist presented the charter school’s annual report to the Aspen Board of Education last week. Among other achievements, Gilchrist reported on his school’s 100 percent teacher retention rate and why it is such a benefit to the school community.

“One of the greatest benefits is that we don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel; we can really focus on improving on what were doing,” he said.

“Plus, the cornerstone of an effective school climate is relationships. This continuity really allows us to build solid relationships.”

ACS employs a staff of 16 in grades pre-K through eighth; Gilchrist attributes their tenacity to the unique environment at ACS and the teachers themselves. He also noted the fact that ACS has just 126 students.

“First of all, we are a very small school, and that allows us to be nimble, to do a lot of things that really support teachers,” explained Gilchrist. “But the bottom line is, I have teachers here that love to teach; they live to teach.”

Aspen School District Superintendent John Maloy agreed, commending Gilchrist and ACS on the work they do.

“I’m not really surprised by their low teacher turnover. It’s a great school and Jim [Gilchrist] has provided tremendous leadership,” he said. “This is a transitional community in many ways, so keeping teachers year after year really speaks to what they are doing right up there.”

The three other Aspen School District schools have seen more teacher turnover. According to district officials, approximately 10 teachers retired and another 40 resigned from 2008-2010; the district employed an average 147 full- and part-time teachers each of these years.

“I think we do a fair job of attracting and retaining teachers, but it is always a focal point and an area we try to improve upon,” said Maloy. “I would say that retaining teachers is as important, if not more important, than recruiting and hiring.”

Maloy’s reasons for the importance of retaining teachers aligned with Gilchrist’s.

“A key part of the business of education is developing relationships – with the kids, the parents, the community. Continuity of teachers really helps with this,” he said, also noting the cost-savings in professional development with a seasoned teaching staff.

Regardless, both Maloy and Gilchrist agreed that another key to all the schools’ continued success is collaboration.

“On the flip side, being such a small school with no teacher turnover can seem isolating. I wouldn’t say it’s something I worry about, but I am concerned,” Gilchrist said. “But thanks to John (Maloy) and the teachers in Aspen, we have great opportunities to continue learning and growing up here. They offer us so much and I think we take advantage of that.

“I am the luckiest principal in the world.”

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com


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