CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — Leadership turnover is an issue being seen in public school districts across the nation, and districts in the tri-county area are no strangers to the issue.

Several school districts in the Lowcountry began the school year with new superintendents, and educators are taking notice.

“I think we see it today at a time when the stakes are even higher for young people and their futures,” said Barnett Berry, a research professor at the University of South Carolina.

A survey found that superintendent turnover was at 17% between the 2021-2022 school year and the 2022-2023 school year.

In the Lowcountry, Charleston County School District and Dorchester District Four both have new superintendents.

Dorchester District Two welcomed a new superintendent last year, while the Colleton County School District currently has an interim superintendent.

The superintendent of the Berkeley County School District is now in his first full year.

“Education has always been political, but it does seem like the temperature has been turned up a bit in the last few years,” said Berry.

Education leaders say the turnover can be harmful to school districts and their students.

“When you have churn at the top of the organization, you have churn in the middle, and guess who suffers the consequences the most? And that is the young people,” Berry said.

Jody Stallings, the Director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance, said constant changes also impact teachers.

“I want to be paying attention to my lessons, not whether we’re going to have a leader in two weeks, or four weeks, or next year,” he said.

Berry believes changes to the superintendent position in recent years are one cause of the turmoil.

“The job has been increasingly unmanageable,” he explained. “I think in the last couple of years we had to turn superintendents into global health experts.”

Stallings also said a lack of patience is contributing to the problem.

“When we don’t see overnight progress, you know sometimes boards get a little impatient — or superintendents move from one position to the next,” he said. “I think it’s a myriad of reasons but if I had to pinpoint one it would probably be just like not enough patience with giving people time to see if they can make a difference.”

Turnover isn’t just being seen within district leadership, as Stallings points out the increase in teacher vacancies across the nation. He believes the issues are indirectly related.

“The number one and two issues are salary and discipline,” he said. “So, when you have continuity from a superintendent, they may have more influence to raise those salaries and they certainly have more influence to enact the policies necessary to make sure that discipline is enforced. So I think when you have that constant turnover, you never really give a superintendent the chance to do that.”

Berry said a few solutions to the problem could be getting parents and students more involved in district actions, more consensus when bringing in new leadership, and creating trust.

“Without those conditions to kind of facilitate school improvement, South Carolina parents, business leaders, and policy leaders are never going to get the results they need.. so let’s set those conditions for everyone in the system.”

Stallings added that allowing teachers to implement their own solutions in classrooms and providing them with the resources they need to do so, could also help the problem by taking some pressure off of superintendents.