By Stephen Floyd
Roughly half of teachers within the Silver Falls School District have either considered leaving during the current school year, or are open to the idea, according to a recent survey by the teacher’s union.
Members of the Silver Falls Education Association were anonymously polled to gauge their level of burnout due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 60 percent of association members responded, and the results illustrated deep concerns among teachers about the futures of their careers and the support they receive from district administrators.
SFEA President Alison Stolfus said she and her leadership team were “a little bit taken aback” by the findings, which show burnout has become a critical problem.
“We’re just trying to do our very hard jobs in the middle of those circumstances, and we’re getting tired,” she said.
Stolfus presented the survey results to the Silver Falls School Board during its regular meeting Feb. 14. She told board members the rate at which teachers are putting serious thought into leaving shows a shift away from the cohesive feel of a small-town school district.
“I thought that was really concerning because, in Silverton, we really pride ourselves on having a staff that stays, a community that’s bonded together,” she said.
SFEA conducted the survey in response to growing levels of frustration among members, which parallels burnout seen throughout the teaching profession from pandemic stressors such as mask mandates, distance learning, and individuals who blame educators for such policies. Stolfus said answers were anonymous to encourage respondents to reply openly.
Respondents were also asked if they had experienced one or more symptoms related to burnout, including chronic fatigue or exhaustion (80.5%), irritability (72.7%), a stronger desire to seek solitude (60.2%), apathy (47%) and insomnia (38.3%). Only seven percent of respondents said they did not identify with any listed symptoms.
Stolfus told board members these concerns require action such as a retention bonus similar to those implemented by the Salem/Kaiser School District ($2,250) and Woodburn School District ($2,000), which will pay participants half this year and half next school year. But she said they can’t afford to ignore the problem.
“I’m not thinking that this is going to resolve itself if we don’t address the issues that the caretakers themselves are losing the ability to take care of kids,” she said.
“… Our teaching staff needs your attention, our teaching staff needs some help, or our schools are going to be in trouble.”
No action was taken by the board that night, though it could adopt the issue as an agenda item during a future meeting.