Lyndsie Riggs, 34, taught English and advised the broadcast program at Castle View High School in Castle Rock. It was her first job teaching — she was there for four years. She left three years ago for the Cherry Creek School District, where she teaches English, video production and broadcast journalism.
Why she left:
“I absolutely adored my students, my colleagues and the leadership at my school. I was honored to teach in the same district that prepared me for life after high school. However, as a life-long learner, I wanted to continue my education and earn a master’s degree. DCSD did not offer an increase in pay for advanced degrees, and since my husband and I essentially pay a second mortgage in school loans already, I could not justify furthering my education without some type of fair compensation. When I started to look at other opportunities, predominantly in CCSD, I knew my advanced degree would be valued and fairly compensated.
“When I left DCSD, I was paid below ‘below-market value,’ and brand-new teachers were making a larger salary in their first year in DCSD. When I accepted a job in CCSD, I automatically made $10,000 more per year. Once I obtain my master’s degree (next year), I will have the opportunity to earn nearly $30,000 more than I earned when I left DCSD.
“While I did not become a teacher because of the money, fair compensation for advanced degrees and years of service definitely makes me feel more valued and respected as an educator. The increase in salary makes a substantial difference to my family. Now my husband does not have to work extra hours to subsidize my passion for teaching, and we are able to provide my daughter with many more opportunities.”
Jess Becker, 42, taught business education, with a specialty in marketing, and was the DECA adviser at Ponderosa High School in Parker for nine years. It was his first teaching job. He left DCSD three years ago for the Cherry Creek School District, where he is a business department coordinator, teaches International Baccalaureate business management and is a DECA adviser.
Why he left:
“Even though I felt supported in the building, there was a very clear lack of support for teachers at the district level. This was clear in a variety of ways, from the evaluation system to the bonds not being supported and lack of competitive pay.
“My salary increased by $17,000 when I moved from DCSD to CCSD ... The salary increase was nice, but it was not the main reason that I left. When I had my new-teacher orientation for CCSD, I was blown away by the superintendent and what he had to say about education in this district. He talked about how important our jobs were because of how important kids are. To be honest, I teared up a little because he was saying exactly what I believe in and why I got into education in the first place.
“I will never forget my years at Ponderosa. The friendships I made with the incredible staff, in the community and with my former students are life-long. The Ponderosa community was so welcoming and I felt a strong connection with families there. I remember riding on the DECA homecoming float in the parade and seeing so many current and former PHS families lining the route and thinking how happy I was to be a part of that. So ... it was incredibly tough to leave.”
Caley Mitchell, 33, taught social studies, government, economics and U.S. history at Castle View High School in Castle Rock for seven years. It was her first teaching job. She also was head softball coach for four years. She moved to the Cherry Creek School District in 2015. She teaches economics, U.S. government and AP history and is a head softball coach. She was named 5A Softball Coach of the Year by the Colorado High School Activities Association in 2016.
“I made the decision to leave the district for a couple reasons, but the biggest was the financial opportunity in Cherry Creek. I had a master’s degree and seven years experience and was barely making $40,000. The pay bands were also extremely negative and disheartening. As a humanities teacher, I was co-teaching with a person on a higher pay band, even though we were teaching the same class. When I went to Creek I lost three years of service on their scale and still received a $14,000 raise. I am in my fourth year in Cherry Creek and am making almost $30,000 more than when I left Douglas County. When you calculate the cumulative increase in income over those four years, it is substantial — not to mention the effect it has on my PERA. Plus, it’s nice to finally feel valued as an educator.
“It was difficult to leave my friends. I will always be grateful to Castle View for giving me my first job, and I made a lot of great connections in Douglas County. But it was not hard to leave the policies and politics of Douglas County. If I was going to remain in teaching, I needed to be somewhere that values its teachers and puts its money where its mouth is.”
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