Friends Academy and Teacher Retention Interviews


This last month I interviewed Mrs. Newit, Mrs. Kelly, and Mr. Schoefull to talk about Friends Academy’s difficulties with finding and retaining teachers. These are the interviews: 


Mrs. Newitt:

Madeline: What is your official title?

Newitt: Assistant principal and Science department chair.   

Madeline: How long have you been working at Friends?

Newitt: 35 years

Madeline: Do you think Friends has struggled with retaining teachers and faculty?

Newitt: It starts with attracting teachers and faculty. I work with hiring within the department, but recently I’ve worked with hiring throughout the school. The first issue is people don’t necessarily want to come to Long Island. It’s a hard sell. Then there is retaining good teachers. Retention is difficult because of location. And then often we lose teachers because maybe their partner gets a job, or they are presented with other opportunities. We also look nationally for teachers as opposed to public schools who tend to look more locally. Hiring teachers is a huge and under appreciated part of Friends Academy. 

Madeline: Do you think this problem has increased or decreased over the years?

Newitt: It’s been like this forever. In the past there was more faculty housing, more people settled here and made a career out of this place. Recently they have reduced housing units, so less people have the option to settle down. Plus the cost of living is so high on Long Island and many don’t see Long Island as where they want to settle down.

Madeline: What is Friends doing to address it? 

Newitt: There has been a greater focus on diversity hiring recently. The daycare is also a plus for faculty with young kids. We try to keep salaries consistent with other independent schools, but the salary has always been lower than public schools.


Andrea Kelly and Mark Schoeffel

Madeline: What is your official title?

Kelly: Head of School.

Schoeffel: Head of the upper school. 

Madeline: How long have you been working at Friends?

Kelly: Four years.

Schoeffel: 5 years.

Madeline: Do you think Friends has struggled with retaining teachers and faculty?

Schoeffel: Not historically, I’ve worked at four or five schools, the turnover rate is less here than at those other schools.

Kelly: Retention here is actually quite strong, many teachers make their career here. There have been some waves of retirement recently. But that’s pretty natural. And you always have a couple of teachers who will move. 

Schoeffel: Coincidence with our arrivals, there was a lot of retirement.

Kelly: And Long Island is a hard place to find people to hire because the cost of living is very high as you know. It is a struggle for teachers to put roots in here. 

Schoeffel: We look nationally for teachers, the pattern suggests that we’ve had success bringing in more people. But sometimes we get notices from teachers who plan on leaving very late in the year, so we have little time to find good replacements.

Kelly: We try to stay in communication with faculty if we know that they are trying to make a change. But summer hires can also work out very well.

Madeline: What is Friends doing to address it? 

Kelly: We need to ensure that FA is a professional home where teachers feel they can really thrive and grow in their positions. Most of the time people think it’s about how teachers are compensated, but the school environment is more important. Opportunity for leadership and personal growth is important. Teachers want to feel positive about what they are doing everyday.

Schoeffel: We have increased the amount of positions since we’ve been here; Dean positions, department leadership, academic advisors. We want to provide as many opportunities as possible. The most important thing we care about is our colleagues. We try to support our colleagues in their life long process. The goal is to give them what they are looking for.