Departing Aspen Middle School teacher: ‘It’s not just about the money’
Seventh grade math teacher shares excerpt from exit questionnaire at Board of Education meeting
After months of negotiations, the Aspen School District and the Aspen Education Association teachers union came together to approve a new salary schedule this week that aims to help with pay equity and attracting and retaining new staff.
Though some staff will see marginal pay increases, others could see their paychecks grow by 20% or more; all staff members in the same positions with the same qualifications will be on the same salary playing field.
But pay increases alone won’t guarantee that staff stick around at the district, according to departing seventh grade math teacher Sarah Beesley.
“While I appreciate all the time and effort that went into negotiations this year, I hope the district realizes it’s not just about the money,” Beesley said during public comment at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting. “It is how we are being treated. If you really want to retain teachers, please treat us like the well-educated professionals that we are.”
Beesley is one of the dozens of district employees who have decided to resign this year, and she spoke at the board meeting this week to share an excerpt from the exit questionnaire she completed as part of the departure process.
“For a very long time, Aspen Middle School had been the perfect fit for the following reasons: Number one, I was treated as a professional. Number two, my leadership potential was valued and encouraged. And number three, Aspen School District was a really fun place to work and learn,” Beesley said.
“Unfortunately, none of these things are true today,” she added. “Aspen School District is not treating us teachers as professionals. Decisions have been made about programming that directly contradict what the teachers have proposed/advocated for. None of the leadership opportunities I’ve been offered in the years past have been offered this year. There’s no time for fun.”
Beesley cited pressure from the district and parents, a slew of new curriculum initiatives, limited substitute coverage, schedule changes and challenges with “deteriorating” student behavior as factors that have contributed to the lack of time.
“Any one of these factors would have been enough for me to consider leaving my career of 21 years at the Aspen School District, but all of them together leaves me no doubt about my choice to resign,” Beesley said.
Beesley’s public comments based on her own response to the district’s exit questionnaire come at a time when some are wondering just why so many staff are leaving the Aspen School District this year.
District human resources director Amy Littlejohn said later in the board meeting that the district sends out exit questionnaires rather than conducting in-person interviews and follows up with some people who didn’t fill out questionnaires to see if they’d like to sit down for an interview instead. The district has waited to send some out until this week, she said.
Aspen Education Association’s Stephanie Nixon requested later in the board meeting that the district share some insights from the exit questionnaires to help shine a light on the reason behind the departures.
“In an attempt to understand the turnover, a synopsis of the interviews is requested,” Nixon said during an Aspen Education Association update. “We’d like to kind of look at the data as well and sharing the summary … just a summary of the interviews with us, with admin and AEA exec council, would allow us to change the way we look at turnover data.”
The Aspen Flight Academy is putting out the all-call for incoming Aspen High School students to participate this summer in the “Every Student Flies” program, which offers every student at the school an hour of free flight time.
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