Darlington High School student says teacher retention issue impacts learning experience

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Data from the South Carolina Department of Education shows many of the area’s school districts exceed the state average for teacher turnover. According to the state, Darlington School District’s now-closed Washington Street Elementary School in Hartsville had the highest turnover rate in the state. The data shows that 62.3% of teachers left the school after three years.

Several other Pee Dee school districts faced similar issues with keeping teachers on their payroll. Florence School District Four faced the highest rates at 27.5%, followed by Florence Three and the Marion County School District. One student said these staffing shortages are affecting the learning experience.

“Every year that I come back from summer break, there’s a different teacher in a different classroom,” Darlington High School Student Government Association President Cameron Graham said. “The teacher that was there previously has gone to a different district or left the field because we’re simply not paying our teachers enough.” Graham, a senior, said it makes it more difficult to connect with instructors.

“They become lifelong mentors to you,” Graham said. “And when they leave, it’s not only breaking your heart but breaking theirs too because they cannot afford to put bread on the table and be there for you at the same time.”

Graham said he knew of several friends who had considered teaching as a profession, but were dissuaded by the salary.

Darlington School District spokesperson Audrey Childers said in a statement to News13 one step the district is taking to combat turnover is a starting salary of $39,000 for first-time teachers. They also offer a signing bonus of $1,000 and additional bonuses for teachers of high-demand subjects. Childers said the district currently has no vacancies.

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