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Staff struggles: 48 teachers have left Panther Valley in 5 years; 20 more retired

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    Dennis Kergick

Published October 12. 2019 05:57AM


Pennsylvania is in the midst of a teacher shortage. Last year, the Department of Education issued just 4,412 teaching certificates, down from 14,000 in 2009. Meanwhile the demand for teachers continues to increase due to teacher retirements and growing student populations.

With more competition for teachers, it is harder for districts with high rates of poverty and small tax bases, like Panther Valley School District, to attract and retain teachers.

The turnover rate at schools with a high rate of poverty is twice the rate of schools with a low poverty rate, according to the Learning Policy Institute, a national education think tank.

More than half of Panther Valley students live at or near the poverty line. The district ranks in the bottom 20 percent of school districts statewide when it comes to the amount of taxable real estate.

It also has an unusually high turnover among teachers. In 2019, seven teachers resigned.

Superintendent Dennis Kergick said that in his five years leading the district, 48 teachers have resigned, and another 20 retired.

“The kids here deserve as much of an education as other school districts can offer. Unfortunately, a lot is dictated by the economics of the area,” Kergick said.

The district’s starting salary for teachers is $37,000, which is the lowest in Carbon County, and on the lower end of districts statewide.

Districts, which are located right around the corner, can hire teachers at Panther Valley to do the same job for more pay. First-year teachers in surrounding districts can make 20 percent more than a teacher at Panther Valley.

Kergick said 19 of the 48 teachers who resigned in the last five years work at other school districts in the area.

Kergick, who started his career as a teacher, said he can understand why a teacher would leave to do the same job for more money.

“If they’re trying to raise a family, and pay their mortgage, and pay for their cars, and all the little things they do in and out — and this gives them an opportunity to build up their potential when they retire as well,” he said.

It’s no secret to teachers that they are paid less than other area districts. The discrepancy goes beyond just starting salary. The salary schedule is longer, meaning it takes more years for a Panther Valley teacher to reach their maximum income.

The teacher’s union has fought for higher salaries. They agreed to accept less because they understand the district doesn’t have the money to pay.

Steve Cholish, a negotiator with the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the union tried to propose higher pay during their most recent negotiation. He said the district presented data which showed how much money they generated from local taxes, how much they received from the state, and how much they would receive from a tax increase.

“We were able to come to agreement on a salary number that while we weren’t happy with, moved our numbers forward without crippling the district at the same time,” Cholish said.

Kergick said raising taxes to increase teacher salaries is not an option in his mind. He believes that the state is not providing adequate funding for the district. An organization called “PA Schools work” estimated that the district should receive about $8.9 million more per year to in order to be on par with other districts around the state.

“We can’t raise our taxes. It would be devastating to a lot of families, especially our senior citizens,” Kergick said.

The district has fought to try to receive more funding per pupil from Harrisburg. They are part of a lawsuit aimed at getting the state to create a more equal system of funding for all students.

There are factors other than pay which lead teachers to leave lower-income districts.

Some teachers would prefer not to teach in a poor school district. Despite being located in a rural area, teachers say the issues faced are more what one would expect to find in poor inner-city districts. There is high poverty, a large number of transient students moving in and out of the district, and many students who do not have parental support for their education.

One former teacher said the makeup of the district changed and the lack of parental support made it difficult to work with students who needed help.

“I was not happy, I was not enjoying myself. I needed to look for something else, and that’s the main reason,” the teacher said.

Panther Valley students struggle in standardized testing. And Kergick said the turnover of teachers makes it harder for them to improve.

“I wish we could do more, I wish we could hang onto the dedicated professionals who work here. I wish we could do more for the students who attend the school district.”


It's called life. But in a union u can have a contract n get a raise in say two or three years n not do a thing. 37000 a year is more then alot of jobs get
Sure 37,000 might be more than a lot of jobs get. But those jobs are filled by uneducated, unskilled laborers. To tell a highly educated (masters degree for some) that their salary will be 37k is a slap in the face. The teachers in a poverty stricken district are saints. They get paid pennies and have no parental support at home. The parents of these kids look at school as a daycare and rely on the teachers to raise their kids while they go out and get high.
They know what they were getting into when they went to school for teaching. Do they expect 100000 to start? Most places dont pay that much after 20 years. Wake up
Plus they get almost free benefits for entire family. Just because you have a degree does not mean you get what you want. You have to earn it!!!!
As a teacher we do not get free insurance. We have to pay a portion of it and have deductible. Whats messed up is when I need to pay $30 for a prescription and the person in front of me pays 30 cents on state insurance. I earned it by earning my degrees. I have 18 years of schooling by CHOICE and WORKED HARD to get an education so I can EARN a decent living while people with minor conditions like ADHD sit around and get paid off my taxes
Uncle Buck,
The homes are being torn apart, and the largest contributor to this, is legislators who rule in progressive liberal ways. These progressive liberals are funded by teachers union money, which originates from the property owner. Being a conservative, my money comes around and kicks me, all because of the way we fund these government schools. If you spend all that money to get a Master Degree, to teach K-12, you might have a problem (lacking self confidence), because there's no way one needs a Master Degree to do that job.
As for getting "High"
The Democrats, who receive the majority of Teacher Union PAC money, are the champions for legalizing Pot, Gambling, Abortion at will (anytime), SEXUAL Confusion, Entitlement, Political Correct Baloney, and bringing in millions of outside influence (undocumented Criminals), which burdens the whole country.
You may want to give a little thought to such things before posting such a rant.

Good Day Buck
Since it is attached to a benefits package, and pension package that can bury the community. One teacher in a family of five can cover the entire family with medical benefits.

This frees up the spouse to have a professional career, without the burdens of medical benefits.
Many doctors, lawyers, business owners, contractors, know this as a fantastic shortcut to financial wealth and becoming a millionaire next door in their early 40's.

Whereas I agree the salary is meager, the employee is at will, and when you look at the whole picture, it is a great rewarding career.
The family life is pretty good too, days off, time schedules allow for participating in youth activities, holidays off, sick days, litigation free family leave act compliance, family emergency time off, paid advancement of schooling, pay increases for advancement, etc. Teaching is not a bad government gig. The writing is on the wall, the teaching profession will be shifting to a second career, after the military, after the first or after the first retirement. Teaching is better than, "Welcome to Walmart" and it will put morality, knowledge and expertiemce in the classroom. A 55 yr old retired Nasa engineer, or Air Products engineer teaching 3rd grade math, or 2 semi retired Dentists teaching kindergarten half days each, a homemaker empty nester teaching HS chemistry. The idea of hiring good teachers is to manage the diverse experiences and bring them into the classroom, expanding the students vision to focus outside the wall of the classroom. These people should be recuited, actively, the way colleges select professor. Study and learning are a means of escaping a trapped existence, this is to taught by sharing experiences.

Complaining about the shortage of teachers is like complaing about the shortages of pay phones. The vision of the management needs to get with the times. The pay is a poor metric in career selection since more than a third of your 250 work day are spent at work, well execpt for teachers, they work about 180 a year.


Citizen David F. Bradley Sr.

PS. Drug screening teachers and staff should be a given, to ignore this is to be an ostrich.

So having a spouse with medical benefits is the key to becoming a millionaire? Lets examine this statement.

in 2018 the average family yearly premium in PA was $18,580. Let suppose that teachers get family benefits for nothing (not true) and see how long it would take to turn that savings into $1,000,000.....

That's 53 years.

Interesting logic.

By the way, all new teachers are put in a defined contribution plan so your statement about pensions is misleading too.
Since it's starting pay for one who has no experience! Since it's pay for a part time job. Since that person has two months off during the summer to pick up employment. Did you ever see what some of these teachers knock down in summer time businesses such as lawn care? Do you realize the resource of employees they have through students at the schools where they teach? We had a teacher who did that, he had all year to pick and choose his employees. Not a bad gig!
Research the total benefits package, it is a racket. This article is a news plant since Lehighton has started their contract negotiations. Expect more articles on the burdens of being a teacher. Soon the working conditions in the newest climate controlled schools will be a thing to seek more pity and pay.

Just wait, some school will try to meet the budget constraints and pull an outsourced training model. Lehighton is already implementing a flipped classroom, what is next? Will Google and YouTube be teaching our lesson plans?
Research flipped classrooms and to tell me who is driving this program?


Citizen David F. Bradley Sr.

Starting at $37,000 a year plus health benefits and pension, (which are not included in the $37,000) is not bad at all. Plus over 3 months a year off is also pretty good. And to have your Masters paid for is also a great benefit. I have a bachelors degree and I would never think I am above someone else, unlike how Uncle Buck’s post is written.
Do you know what 20 teachers (on average) costs the taxpayer in retirement pay?

$720K to $800K a tear. That's costing these districts dearly.

Another thing... There's no way a techer needs a master degree to teach any K-12 subject. Heck, you nail down a lesson plan, it doesn't change. Easy Peasy.
What makes a teachers job difficult is the kids. Rotten lousy kids... right?
Well let's dig in to what might make a student difficult to deal with... the broken down family.
What breaks down families? Answer: The results of liberal/progressive legislation. Examples: Gambling, Drinking (pertying), Divorce, Drugs (marijuana), Dual income households, the devaluing of life (abortion), gender disphoria, sexuality issues...
OK, you get it. The teachers pay dues that goes to PACs, which goes to the Democrats who kind of push all of the above progressive poison.
Make sense? Stop paying union dues! No? Why not... scared?
School choice solves most of these issues allowing the parents and students to evaluate the education provided, funding those that do achieve the individual results required to be the best in the world.

As more and more districts create and pass unsustainable budgets, the community's are driven into poverty.

FYI, a $50k salary for 180 day schedule actually costs district's about $92 in benefits, pension etc. Mismangement and poor negotiation crush district's that chose debt over proper pay for the teachers that teach our children.

School choice and freedom to teach elevates the educational system and the compensation for good teachers.


Citizen David F. Bradley, Sr.
John LMGTFY, Hey Google, how many days does a teacher work?

"Also negotiated is a calendar work year that limits teachers to 181 work days. Most Americans work 245 days per year meaning teachers get nearly 13 weeks more vacation time than the typical US worker."

So my apologies, John, 181. This article and people like John are just plants to drive away known facts.

John, as a past educator I will say that teaching was a great job. Believe me, any teacher that complains about the schedule, hours, work environment, or pay should use their veteran provided God given American rights and seek employment elsewhere. These people are at will employees, they can chose to enter or leave the profession at any time. Slaves they are not. Oh, and John, google how to calculate a full pay package before you spout off in retort.


Citizen David F. Bradley Sr.
Teachers are salaried professionals, # of days is not what they are paid on. People who complain about this are usually people who are non-exempt and have a different view on work.
Teachers work 180 days, what I consider a part time job. Teachers enjoy vacations like we working folk could only dream of. Though I'm not jealous, it does grind my gears the way all this monopolized government education gets funded... yup!
I work 180 days in an emotional support classroom. Everyday I have things thrown at me, I am cursed at, and kids thinks its okay to hit and parents do nothing about it. By the way you have to take this all in with a smile on your face. Please take my job. Tell me if you can last more than 180 days
It's your profession if u dont like it you can quit. I drive school bus 180 days a year n get the same thing it's what u choose to do when that happens is how u get thru it. N no not the I u. School bus company!!
It appears that Mr. Bradley is as incapable of shutting his mouth online as his history of that incapacity in board meetings would suggest.

The goal of education is to do what's best for students. The task of educators, administrators, board members and communities is to find a way to make that happen. The article is pointing out some of the difficult problems that Panther Valley faces. Mr. Bradley, while quick to spew forth the tired rhetoric of the opponents of public education in defense of some imagined assault on his position, does not live or work in that district, send his children to school there, or have any concept of that environment. Nor does he offer any suggestion for the improvement of the situation beyond vague insinuations that school choice and the dismantling of public schools would provide some sort of miraculous cure to the economic hardship of the region. I would suggest that he spend more time in his schools in order to better understand their reality. That is, of course, assuming that he is no longer banned from their premises.
School choice would be nice. Just allow the student to take the state portion to what ever school the parents would choose for their child. If what's best for the student is your objective, shouldn't the parent make the decision who and where that takes place? Choice! The public school system has monopolized, and tied up all funding, and, they aren't all that great. I have heard many good suggestions from Mr. Bradley, they just don't tickle your ears perhaps.
You know that Millionaire thing in your 40's only works if you're not stupid enough to buy a large house that requires all the money from your two incomes. You also can't buy an expensive car every three years. And you can't operate in a deficit year after year - you know - like a school district. AND that don't take no GED.

Don't be a Hater!

I did Google that Flipped Classroom thing. Times are changing. Kinda reminds me how College went. Here's the syllabus. Review the material for the next lecture. Ask questions on what's giving you trouble.
Kamala Harris, and Joe Biden, have both made pay raises for teachers part of their platforms.
The "resist" mobs will respond with more teachers strikes in 2020.
The bullies will shut off all education, all the while telling us how important education is for our children. They'll strike for pay and benefits, which has nothing to do with educating. It's all being staged, and it's all in the interest of "Self".
Oh please not more poor teacher stories and how poor they are. I never started out at that much on any job I had. These teachers want raise after raise that make our taxes go up more that the average to poor can't afford. They get great benefits. Summers off with pay that still enables them to work elsewhere if they choose. Is not just this district. When I went to school we were lucky if the teacher came to class. Another class was spent telling us how poor they are. I think what they need to do is start printing the name of each teacher and what they make as well as the administration. They did it many years ago I think it should be done again.
Panther Valley is listed the 6th worst School in Pennsylvania. Done by Penn Live. It states PV has a 47% graduation rate! What has gone wrong?
The Teacher complaining about their Masters and not being paid for it. Well since when do you need a Masters to Teach? May I ask did you get your Masters on the Taxpayers Dime?

As for $37,000 salary for the area. Well I have a daughter who has a BS degree and a Associates Degree and has No health care benefits and makes that. She is single and it is hard for her. But she does not want to go to the city where she would get more. So she is willing to stay here because she likes the small town life, It's a trade off.

Working in a small town school district means you do not get great pay. You may not get the Ideal Students. You do not have to deal with crazy traffic like the city. You get Health Benefits. Paying 30 dollars for your prescriptions is what I pay under my husband retirement plan so I would not complain if I were you. Be happy you have Benefits!
All I can ask any Teacher is remember your Roots. Or at Least what other teachers would tell me.
"The job is worth it if you get through to a student and change their life!"
Give encouragement to that poor student, make them think they can be something more than what they see at home. You never know they may just surprise you.
P.S. I came from a poor family. My teachers would be pretty surprised and proud of what I did with my life.

But paying more money to get better Teachers is NOT the answer. The seed is what is planted in the children's minds.

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