YUHSD Enjoys Highest Teacher Retention Rate in 15 years
BY CHRIS McDANIEL
YUMA – The Yuma Union High School District is seeing its highest retention rate among certified staff members since 2007.
Certified staff positions include teachers, counselors, drop-out prevention specialists, instructional coaches, instructional leaders, and directors.
At the start of the 2023-24 school year, YUHSD reported a certified staff retention rate of 84.8 percent, which is the highest for the district since the dawn of the Great Recession.
That is up from about 60 percent from 2016 through 2022.
District officials say, that out of 539 certified staff positions, 457 returned to the district for the current school year.
YUHSD Associate Superintendent, Lisa Anderson, recently spoke to KAWC, about the welcome turn of events.
She says, there are several reasons the shortage has eased.
“I would say that there are four factors to that. The first one would be our improved compensation packet [for] classroom teachers and the instructional coaches, the counselors.”
Anderson also pointed to a 38 percent raise for teachers, and expanded benefits, as contributing to the positive trend.
A mandated 20-percent increase – from then-Governor Doug Ducey’s office in 2020 – was part of that pay hike.
The remaining 18 percent raise – including a 4 percent increase for the current school year, was approved by the YUHSD Governing Board.
And, Anderson says, Proposition 301 also has proven to be beneficial to staff retention.
Prop 301 was a constitutional amendment approved by Arizona voters in the year 2000, and requires annual inflation increases to the State's funding for public schools.
The funding is earmarked for maintenance and operations, teacher base-pay increases, and performance pay.
Anderson says, performance pay rewards teachers for achieving certain goals, and is tailor made for each teacher.
“They have the opportunity, so if I know what my strengths are as a teacher, but I know what I want to work on, then they work on those goals and then that's how you build your whole school improvement plan...
“...We tailor all of the professional development and some examples of that are around AVID [ Advancement Via Individual Determination] educational leadership.
“We personalize competency-based learning strategies for students and teachers, or they can have a pre-approved choice of what their goal would be with their campus administrator.”
Anderson says, that the current achievement rate for established performance pay criteria is about 98 percent.
And, she says, improving the skills of teachers also benefits the students.
“Correct. So, at the end of the day, it increases teacher efficacy, which is going to increase student achievement. Getting the teachers in and retaining them, it's what's best for students.”
While the teacher retention rate has improved, the availability of bus drivers remains an ongoing issue, Anderson says.
“We started out short. We're in a consortium with District 1, so my understanding is right now that we're OK … We do have a part-time driver position under Yuma Union, and we increase the pay for that to help fill some of those positions. But I don't know that we'll ever stay ahead of it.”
Anderson says, this is because of the logistics involved in providing transportation for extra-curricular activities out of town.
“Part of that is so we're servicing two districts... I think our last enrollment is 11,500 students. And, when you look at athletics and if it's out of town... with 7 high schools traveling, that's kind of where that extra burden comes in...
“...So let's just say if a football team is leaving, they're maybe leaving at 1:00 in the afternoon. Now you're going to take your afternoon route drivers.”
There also remains a need for tutors and substitute teachers.
For more information, visit the district’s official website at yumaunion.org, and click “Employment Opportunities.”
Chris can be reached at 928-317-6077.