Archive for Thursday, July 13, 2006

Education agency’s turnover rate grows

More than 20 percent of employees quit job

July 13, 2006


— One in five employees left the state Department of Education over the past year, and some critics of Commissioner Bob Corkins are blaming him for the relatively high turnover rate.

But Corkins said Wednesday that such criticism is unjustified, adding that some of the turnover re-flects competition for personnel among the state and its 296 school districts.

The State Board of Education, which hired Corkins in October, received its annual report on employee turnover Tuesday. The report said 53 staff members - nearly 21 percent - voluntarily left the department during the state's 2006 fiscal year, which ended June 30. Six retired and 47 resigned.

Board members who opposed Corkins' hiring saw the turnover rate as a signal of turmoil within the agency since he became commissioner. His hiring, on a 6-4 vote, initially angered some educators because Corkins had not run a school or school district before.

They noted that about 10 percent of the department's employees resigned or retired in fiscal 2005 - less than half the rate in fiscal 2006.

"I'm very concerned," board member Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat who opposed Corkins' appointment, said Wednesday. "I think people are not happy, so they're leaving."

But board Chairman Steve Abrams, an Arkansas City Republican, who supported Corkins' appointment, said he's not concerned because the department has been able to fill vacancies with talented applicants.

"We continue to do some great things here," he said. "It's not based on all one person."

Corkins noted 18 employees who left did so before Oct. 1, and he wasn't hired until Oct. 4. If anything, the turnover rate slowed after he took over, he said.

He later released figures showing the department's turnover rate has varied since fiscal 2006. Though last year's figure was the highest, turnover reached 17 percent in fiscal 1999.

Corkins noted school districts also are looking to fill high-level positions, and they compete with the state for personnel.

"We're just all trading people," he said.

Indeed, a state audit released Tuesday suggested some districts have trouble filling even teaching spots because of a shortage of qualified educators.

For example, the Legislative Division of Post Audit said, 17 percent of all special education positions in 2004-05 were either vacant or filled by a teacher who wasn't fully qualified.

But it's not a new trend. Educators and legislators have worried for at least a decade about teacher shortages and have been concerned the problem will become worse as teachers retire.

But Waugh said the fact that so many Education Department employees left during the last fiscal year is troubling because agency personnel often can earn more money working for a district but choose to stay with the state because they're happy.

And the agency has lost some visible administrators. Former Deputy Commissioner Alexa Posny - passed over for the commissioner's job - took a job with the U.S. Department of Education. Former spokesman David Awbrey left last month, citing the contentious political climate and family considerations.

Another former employee, Diane DeBacker, became an associate superintendent three weeks ago for the Shawnee Heights school district, east of Topeka. She said her desire to be closer to schools led her away from her job as director of school improvement for the education department.

She said Corkins' appointment didn't play into her leaving.

"I got along with him very well, and he treated me very well," DeBacker told The Topeka Capital-Journal. "For me, that wasn't a factor. For other people I think that it was."


Uncle_Salty 11 years, 10 months ago

Working for the KSDE is a lot like working for any other poltical entity: when the election is over, the winner moves his own people in, or irritates the incumbant job holders until they quit, so he can then move his own people in.

The politics that is played at the KSDE is hardball! We move a new commissioner in, and we should NOT be surprised that a 21% turnover occurred.

The press must take us for fools to think that this turnover is extraordinary.

sci4all 11 years, 10 months ago

Corkins was hired only because the radical board majority (once again) ignored the advice of the experts they'd entrusted with the job. As usual, when the radicals didn't like the answers those experts provided, they took matters into their own hands to railroad their choice of fox to guard the henhouse.

His predecessor, the well-respected Andy Tompkins, was education commissioner for 9 years through numerous state board elections and lower turnover rate.

The fact is that Corkins isn't qualified for the job.

The fact is that instead of honorably bowing out of the search when it became apparent that the search was a charade, he proposed hiring a transition team to help him learn his job.

The fact is that Corkins' transition team contains such notables as Scott Hill, a former creationist KSBE member who had to resign from the board when it became known he wasn't a KS resident anymore.

Corkins' hiring is the most damaging action this radical board has taken. Imagine what more they'll do if they're not replaced SOON.

You have until July 17th to register to vote in the August 1st primary. The idiots won last time because most voters stayed home. Don't let them slide in by apathy again - get out and vote!

usaschools 11 years, 10 months ago

We really don't know if the turnover is extraordinary or not. No facts are presented about the average annual turnover rate. I suspect that this is higher than usual. It is extremely frustrating for CAREER educators to live with the purely political appointment of a non-educator to the highest education post in the state. Corkins was and is unqualified for this post. We can't ignore the gorrilla in the room. Nonetheless, the article fails to support its implications with data.

brujablanco 11 years, 10 months ago


Good post.

Here is some information relative the election.

Many Republican state legislators have managed to convince trusting Kansans that they're moderates who support public education, but their voting records should lead us to be skeptical.

During the legislature's 2005 Special Session, Doug Mays attempted to strip the state Supreme Court of the right to require the legislature to fund the public schools, wasting a great deal of time and taxpayers' money.

Ed O'Malley, Terrie Huntington, and Kevin Yoder all backed Mays in his effort to undermine our schools. I realize that there are some wild-eyed right-wingers in Topeka who make these three look moderate by comparison. But when a meaningful standard is applied, they can't be viewed as responsible moderate legislators.

The good news is that they all have Democratic opponents this year.

Andy Sandler is opposing O'Malley in the 24th district. Missy Taylor is challenging Huntington in the 25th. Alex Holsinger wants to replace Yoder in the 20th.

If you support Kansas Public Schools, please support Democrats like Sandler, Taylor, and Holsinger.


pundit 11 years, 10 months ago

Brujablanco: OMalley, Huntington, Yoder are all moderate to liberal Repubs. All also are much above average state legislators too.

You obviously must have a highly partisan agenda.

By the way, the LJW is in Douglas County, not Johnson.

But yes, everyone should please vote...especially in primary elections

ASBESTOS 11 years, 10 months ago

21% turnover rate is HUGE! You can get statistice from the Div. Of Personnel Services for historical turnover rates. Most civil servants only leave for a higher paying job, or retirement. Most of the postions you take outside of the Civli Service has very poor benes, as compared to the state of Kansas benes, which are great.

Turnovver, yes it is because of Corkins.

Uncle_Salty 11 years, 10 months ago

I am in the education field, and have also worked at the KSDE. I was caught in a political chess game, and was forced out ("St. Andy Thompkins" was the head cheese at that time!). Corkins is just the new whipping boy for the education field.

While I personally don't agree with most of Corkins views (political or otherwise!), he is the "man" right now. His agenda is what is the order of the day, and some who work at the good ol' KSDE don't like it.

Believe it or not, when you start asking more out of people, most don't like it! Some buck up and shut up, some shoot off their mouths and are forced out, some retire, some resign.

I think that is what we are seeing. The "true" educational bureaucrats will continue to work there!

Uncle_Salty 11 years, 10 months ago

Oh I forgot this: I had to recertify this spring. My recertification agent at the KSDE told me she was leaving because she wanted to get back in the classroom. The KSDE jobs look good on paper: Benefits, salary, a cubicle, etc. But, after being in a classroom for a number of years, many require a certain amount of human interaction. This woman told me she was bored and wanted to get back to the business of dealing with kids!

She is one of those "statistics." Was it because of Corkins? I did ask her that. Nope... it was because she wanted to teach again! I wonder how many more of those 21% are in the same boat?

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