Exodus of teachers
Lutsel K'e students say goodbye to their teachers

Yellowknife ( May 15/00) - The Lutsel K'e school is losing all five of its teachers in June.

They've only been there a year, but all have decided not to renew their contracts for their own personal reasons.

"We tried to offer permanent contracts to some of them and they chose not to (accept)," said Curtis Brown, superintendent of the South Slave Divisional Education Council.

This is not a first for the students of Lutsel K'e. The school lost all its teachers when the 1999 school year ended.

Brown has been a superintendent in the North for four years. He has quickly discovered it's the smallest communities that have a hard time holding on to the best teachers.

"Teachers are nervous about accepting into permanent contracts in smaller communities," said Brown. "And once they get to a small community they tend to want to transfer as soon as they can to a larger community."

Several attempts have been made to alleviate the problem.

Teacher training programs have been offered, hoping those who already live in these communities would complete the program and teach in their hometowns.

Support programs have also been implemented to encourage new teachers and make them feel comfortable in their new surroundings.

Housing is also a key reason why many teachers decide to leave.

Lutsel K'e principal Marlene Bahry said rent on a three-bedroom home in the community can cost upwards of $1,250, not including heating and utility expenses.

"If you've got a new teacher, sometimes their rent eats up all of their cheque and it's really discouraging," said Bahry.

Brown said some of the teachers did indicate cost of housing was the reason they decided to move on.

The never-ending problem frustrates Bahry.

"How can you get program consistency when the turnover is so great?

"The kids make attachments and the staff are attached to the students too. I love these kids ... it's hard to leave because you see such potential," she said.

Bahry, Brown and the members of the Lutsel K'e District Education Authority will be searching through resumes over the next few weeks.

Bahry hopes to have the new teachers hired by the end of June.