RACINE — 21st Century Preparatory School officials had to replace two-thirds of their teaching staff following the departure of 20 teachers after the school year ended July 8.

“Every person has their own reasons for choosing to leave at this particular time,” said 21st Century Prep Board President William Streeter. He referred many times to “various reasons” but, when pressed, listed only one reason: compensation.

Teachers contacted for this story did not return calls. But school Director Arletta Tucker echoed Streeter, saying every single departing teacher told her that he or she left because of low compensation.

“We have had some teachers leave for (public) school districts. They have a luxury compensation package” including higher wages, Tucker said, explaining her school is an independent charter school with a smaller budget of about $3 million annually. “One of our challenges is meeting that same level of those types of packages.”

Racine Unified teachers’ salaries range from $39,960 to $71,494, plus benefits, according to the district’s current salary schedule. 21st Century Prep teachers make $31,000 to $57,000, plus benefits, Tucker said.

21st Century Prep is a public charter school, funded by the state and operating under a charter from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside since 2002. The school’s charter contract with Parkside must be renewed every five years and is not up for review for another three years. Interim reviews can be done if deemed necessary, but none are on the horizon, said Paul Haubrich, the charter school authorizer for Parkside.

The staff exodus at 21st Century Prep is much, much higher than national teacher turnover averages. Charter schools typically lose 20 percent to 25 percent of teachers each year, according to the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a policy and research organization affiliated with the University of Washington. Traditional urban public schools usually lose about 20 percent of teachers, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a teaching-focused nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.

21st Century Prep lost 65 percent of its teachers.

Out of a 31-member teaching staff, 20 people left. The school also lost a dean, counselor and special education director, for a total of 23 departing staff. The 4-year-old kindergarten through eighth-grade school employs 87 people, Tucker said.

This summer is not the first time a large number of staff has left 21st Century Prep. High staff turnover also happened about six years ago, Streeter said, “again for various reasons.”

Hiring for this school year has been successful and 21st Century Prep, 1220 Mound Ave., has a full staff ready to start the school year Tuesday for 470 students, Tucker said.

“We are prepared,” she said. “We have been in training with our new staff. A lot of them come with master’s degrees in our subject areas and they’re ready to go.”

Some of the new teachers come from “very distinguished” Milwaukee charter schools and most have experience working with students similar to 21st Century Prep’s racially diverse, largely low-income attendees, Tucker said.

School officials have notified parents of the staffing changes via a letter posted on the school’s website, Tucker said. The letter, however, is mostly about the school’s vision and teaching methods. As far as staffing is concerned, it says only, “your child will meet many new faces throughout the school.”

Parents calling about staffing have been given additional information, Tucker said.

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