Durham Public Schools hopes to retain teachers, principals with mentoring program

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Durham Public Schools is fighting to keep quality teachers and good principals by beefing up a program that pairs rookies in both positions with experienced mentors. (WTVD)

Durham Public Schools is fighting to keep quality teachers and good principals by beefing up a program that pairs rookies in both positions with experienced mentors.

DPS Dept. Supt. of Academics Stacey Wilson-Norman delivered a plan Thursday evening to the school board to add 20 new mentors for the district's roughly 600 rookie teachers.

Currently there are only six mentors, which puts the guidance ratio at about one mentor per 100 teachers.

Wilson-Norman said the shortage makes it difficult for teachers with three or less years of experience to get immediate feedback and build confidence in the classroom.

"Mentors support teachers all day long at assigned schools -- helping them with classroom management ideas, lesson planning, modeling for them. So they will be supporting and coaching the new teachers," said Wilson-Norman.

The new mentors will have at least 10 years of classroom experience and be able to meet with mentees at least once a week.

The estimated program cost is $430,000, but the school district believes it will cut their teaching turnover rate. At roughly 20 percent last year, the DPS turnover rate was six points higher than the state average.

Last year, DPS also lost a number of principals to retirement, which is why officials will also implement a similar mentoring plan for new principals. The two-year principal program will cost about $232,000 annually.

DPS said it expects to fully staff both initiatives by next month, and then evaluate next summer to see if they're working.

"We understand and know that teachers matter, and that our principals matter," explained Wilson-Norman. "Our main goal is to help them every day to be able to do their job first and foremost, and we feel like projects like this help them do so."

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