With vacancies already high in Santa Fe Public Schools, nearly 200 district teachers and education personnel said they are considering retiring or resigning in the next two years due to an increased workload, according to an August union survey.
National Education Association Santa Fe President Grace Mayer shared results of the survey of more than 400 employees at a virtual district board meeting Thursday night. It collected responses on issues including child care, housing affordability and educator views on standardized tests.
“I think we need to figure out how we’re going to collectively respond to this crisis,” Mayer said. “There’s several [crises], and they’re really impacting our community and our ability to maintain employment with the district.”
Lack of full-time staff members and shortages of substitutes has prompted some Santa Fe schools to combine classrooms this year, as some teachers sell their preparation time back to the district to cover classes and principals step into teaching roles.
Survey results showed nearly 200 teachers were “concerned” about their ability to remain in Santa Fe because of rising housing costs. Seventy-nine others were unsure if housing costs might force them to leave town.
Hundreds of others said they were unable to purchase Santa Fe housing that would meet their family’s needs on their current salary.
On Monday, the Santa Fe Association of Realtors reported that home prices even in the lowest-priced sector of Santa Fe County recently increased 18.2 percent. The median home price within city limits is $475,000, according to third-quarter association reports.
New Mexico’s teacher salaries operate on a three-tiered system based on experience, and starting pay is slightly more than $41,000.
Top Santa Fe district wages for teachers surpass $65,500, according to the 2020-21 salary schedule.
Results also suggested dozens of district staff members were facing homelessness or housing insecurity in August. In addition, the survey showed educators paying for child care paid an average of $954 each month, while others relied heavily on family members to care for young children.
“Access to child care is a serious barrier in our efforts to recruit and retain a highly qualified, diverse workforce,” Mayer said.
Other survey respondents said a rent increase had created financial challenges in the past five years. That might include district teachers like Zoe Gierman, who sent a statement to the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting and said she faces an upcoming 65 percent rent increase on her one-bedroom casita.
“I want to serve Santa Fe Public School students, and yet I fear that there is no longer any space for me in this city. As a Tier 2 teacher operating on a single income, I should have better options. Our new teachers, they simply won’t come to Santa Fe,” reads the statement, which district spokesman Cody Dynarski read aloud Thursday night.