Colorado sees rise in superintendent turnovers in pandemic

November 23, 2020 GMT

DENVER (AP) — Three of the largest school districts in Colorado are searching for superintendents, a pattern experts have said reflects nationwide trends over who will manage parent expectations and teacher concerns amid shrinking budgets exacerbated by the pandemic.

Denver Public Schools, Jeffco Public Schools and Douglas County School District have all begun a search for a new superintendent, The Denver Post reported. Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova was the most recent to resign earlier this month.

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“There is no doubt about it that there has been a significant rise in the number of superintendents that are retiring, resigning or just leaving their post. And that’s without doubt due to the pandemic and the tremendous pressure that they’re working under,” American Association of School Administrators Executive Director Dan Domenech said. “It’s a tough job.”

Schools have faced staffing challenges, enrollment declines in teacher preparation programs and employee retainment issues, officials said. Colorado Association of School Executives Executive Director Bret Miles said the biggest challenge this year is how or whether to reopen schools.

District plans for in-person, hybrid or remote learning have changed monthly and sometimes weekly as superintendents and public health officials continually assess the risk associated with COVID-19.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

“The divides that our superintendents have faced have been unique compared to other business leaders because school is so personal,” Miles said. “Whether or not we should be making adjustments for COVID, or that it’s a hoax or that it’s scary — that divide in the communities has also been exhausting.”

Miles considers the superintendents’ resignations as coincidence and said he is more concerned about turnover in the spring.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals conducted a survey in August of more than 1,000 principals in the U.S. and found that 45% are considering or have sped up plans to leave the profession. According to the survey, about 5% said they decided to leave as soon as possible because of working conditions imposed by the pandemic.

“I’m concerned about it through all of our levels. I think we are going to see more teacher retirements this year than typical. We saw some teachers just not come back in the fall, too,” Miles said. “We could see a real stress on the system of people ready to walk away.”