Uptick in teacher retirements, resignations over pandemic

More and more teachers are walking away from the job during the pandemic, according to the union representing Orange County teachers, but the district says data shows most are staying.

“I love my kids. I love the career. I’m actually the teacher of the year at my school so I pour a lot into my school community and I love working with them, but it came to a point I had to decide to do what was best for me, personally,” Ashley Craig said.

Craig, who teaches 5th grade at Riverside Elementary School, says that means leaving the job for good.

“Every week can bring something new and I think that that’s a challenge because it’s hard to effectively plan as a teacher if you don’t know what’s coming next,” Craig said.

Elizabeth Panagopoulos, who was teaching at Cypress Creek High School, quit earlier this month.  

“It was such a difficult job already and then during the pandemic, they refused to listen to any of us and any of our suggestions and, instead, went full steam with a plan we said wasn’t going to work,” Panagopoulos said.

President of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association Wendy Doromal says it’s a troubling trend: Teachers are fed up and moving on.

“We’re seeing a lot more teachers leave after the school year started and classes started,” Doromal said. “We’ve heard from so many teachers – dozens of teachers who can’t cope with insecurity of feeling they’re not safe at school.”

The Orange County School District says teacher resignations and retirements are up only slightly. They provided data from the first day of school to Oct. 6 in 2019 and 2020.

“The difference in retirements and resignations was an increase of 29 out of more than 14,000 teachers,” said Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) Spokesman Scott Howat.

The district says the uptick could have to do with the pandemic, but it also may be due to movement you would see in a normal school year.

“Because of the downturn in enrollment, it has not been as big of an issue for us to be hiring at this point,” Howat said.

Orange County Public Schools says student enrollment is down by about 6,000.