School district struggles to keep staff

Seymour Community School Corp. is seeing an increasing number of non-contracted employees leave their positions for other jobs.

The district is struggling to keep instructional assistants, custodians, cafeteria workers, administrative assistants, bus drivers and other “classified” workers, said Seymour High School Principal Greg Prange.

Most of those employees say they can’t make ends meet and leave for jobs that pay more, Prange said.

“It seems to be a common trend of why they leave,” he said.

Nicole Spencer was an instructional assistant at Seymour-Jackson Elementary School for three years. She started her job in August 2015 and left this past April.

“I loved the job. Working with children is my passion,” she said.

Spencer started out at $11 an hour and was making more than $12 when she left to take a job at Schneck Medical Center.

What made Spencer leave was the fact classified employees do not get paid when school is not in session.

“Not getting paid over the summer and snow days and holiday breaks began to really take a toll on our finances,” she said. “It would be nice to have the option to stretch your pay across the summer.”

The turnover disrupts not just the high school but all of the schools’ abilities to educate students, Prange said.

The corporation advertised 16 classified jobs available last month, including seven instructional assistant positions.

The schools have utilized substitutes, when possible, as a temporary solution for vacant positions, but there are times when those jobs cannot be filled due to a lack of qualified candidates, Prange said.

During a school board meeting Aug. 14, Prange requested trustees do a survey of other local employers to see if the corporation needs to make adjustments to its classified employees’ salary schedule.

Any information gathered will be used to help the board analyze its current pay and benefits structure, he said.

“Are the starting pays and subsequent step increases in line with current economic trends in and around Seymour?” he asked. “Gathering data from local factories, industries and school corporations could confirm any such discrepancy.”

With a growing and diverse student enrollment and added responsibilities for all school employees, Prange said it’s imperative the district has good people in place to support teachers and administrators.

He said recruiting new employees is important, but retaining them should be an equal priority.

“We have lost several very good employees to other employers in the area who can offer better pay or more hours,” Prange said. “If we want to recruit good people and retain good people, we have to be competitive.”