(MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo.) — Community members gathered at Manitou Springs Middle School Monday evening to discuss the turnover rate in District 14.

Starting in April, a group of parents began asking questions regarding the district’s turnover rates and why staff were leaving the district. A group of concerned parents came together to create the group Stand Up for Manitou.

H’Krih Shelhamer, a member of Stand Up for Manitou, said how upseting it was to see so many teachers that her family was close with leave the school.

“It is really sad to see so many of those people who we know personally no longer be here,” stated Shelhamer. “When it seemed obvious that teaching was their passion or that working with children in general was their passion.”

The parent group conducted an exit survey with a third party group to learn why staff were leaving the district.

“We actually approached the board and requested that they do a survey and nothing ever happened,” said Shelhame. “So, it was time we needed to take action for ourselves.”

The survey results showed two key reasons why staff were not continuing to teach in Manitou Springs.

“Unfortunately, it showed it’s the district culture that has caused these people to leave and district leadership,” said Shelhame.

Stand Up for Manitou presented these findings and called on the board to improve the teaching environment based on these findings.

“What we want now is we want to see the board of Education acting on that information, stated Shelhame. “It is up to them to do their job, which is making sure that our education system is protected and that the teachers that are working in that district and that system are protected.”

Other in the meeting held opposing views and thought change was needed in the district.

“I do believe that it is a small group of vocal people who are discontented with with the changes and change can be very painful,” said Mary Tatum, parent of Manitou Alum. “And I acknowledge that, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.”

Tatum asked several questions in the meeting including if the survey interviewed staff who were currently teaching in the district.

“The survey said exactly what they wanted it to say is how I look at it. They only interviewed people who have left,” said Tatum. “But they did not interview people who have stayed in the district for their entire careers… and did not get voices that might have some other opinion to offer in terms of the general culture and and perhaps have good feelings about some of the changes here.”

After the board meeting, a statement was issued by Superintendent of Manitou Springs School District 14, Elizabeth A. Domangue, PhD. Read the full statement:

We thank these former employees for bringing this to our attention. While we are aware of many reasons some employees have left the district (more than 1-2 years ago), this information provides another data point for improvement. We know that there are always opportunities to grow and feedback is helpful.

I invite former employees to meet to discuss any concerns or thoughts that would be helpful for progress. My door is always open, and I am always happy to talk in hallways, driveways, games, community events, etc.

Our new HR team is continuing with practices that have been highly successful for recruiting and retaining employees in all positions. They are also leading efforts to seek feedback in new and different ways–ways that are formative. For example, we are excited about rolling out Let’s Talk (through K12 Insights) to all staff, students, and parents. This is a platform for sharing concerns and celebrations via an online platform where people can choose to be anonymous or not.

I am working with the Board of Education to create a community-engaged and facilitated dialogue with all stakeholders. This will be facilitated by a group outside of Manitou Springs.

As with anything involving staff, I can’t speak about confidential personnel matters.

Elizabeth A. Domangue, PhD.