BLOOMSBURG, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Graduation rates are declining and there is a community concerned because of the number of teachers leaving one local school district. Eyewitness News spoke with a former employee who points the blame toward leadership.

Over the past few years, the State Department of Education says Bloomsburg Area School District’s four-year cohort graduation rate fell more than 10 percent leaving many to question why?

From 2017 to 2020, the Bloomsburg Area School District’s graduation rate has fallen from just over 95 percent to around 85 percent, according to the State Department of Education.

This is inconsistent with the other school districts in the area, as their graduation rates are on the rise.

Amid slipping graduation rates, more than ten teachers and guidance counselors have resigned from the Bloomsburg Area School District since July 2021.

Former Bloomsburg Area School District employee Patricia Lawton says the teachers are at their boiling point.

“We have a culture that is toxic. We have teachers with mental health concerns and people are not happy. I really believe we are in a crisis situation right now,” Lawton explained.

Lawton recently resigned from Bloomsburg Area School District as a speech-language pathologist because of toxic leadership, she claims.

“My professional license was being put in jeopardy and the children that I served were not being ethically addressed,” said Lawton. “I will not work under those conditions.”

A parent sent Eyewitness News an audio clip from the school board meeting held on Monday, October 4, and a current teacher has the same concerns as Lawton.

“Please know that our teachers will remain committed to ensuring we do what is best for our students, despite experiencing what most would classify as a toxic work environment,” said Tara Mowrey, middle school teacher.

Eyewitness News has reached out to the school district to confirm the audio clip is from the school board meeting from the previous week. But, as of now, no one has been made available.

In the same clip, the school board responds saying it is a complex situation, but they would rather people choose to resign than see layoffs due to budget cuts.

“If we can balance the budget through voluntary resignations and some of those resignations are people who are frustrated, and some of those resignations are people who got better opportunities elsewhere,” said Bloomsburg Treasurer Mark Decker

The Bloomsburg Area School District says these issues will be addressed in future school board meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 18. The superintendent, Donald Wheeler and the school district had no further comments.