Monday, September 18, 2006

Protect Phase I Schools from Losing Teachers

I learned today that Gloria Mitchell, the new Seattle Schools Elementary Education Director for Viewlands Elementary, notified the school that due to decreased enrollment, Viewlands would lose a teacher by the end of September.

This absolutely should not happen! Losing a teacher at this point would mean reconfiguring classes, creating additional burden on the principal and teachers, not to mention additional disruption for the students.

When the district made the decision to close Viewlands and other schools during Phase I, they could have easily predicted that enrollment would decline. I think the district should consider excess staffing at these schools as a necessary cost of the closure and consolidation decisions, as valid as any of the capital and administrative expenses they are budgeting for.

If you agree, contact Gloria Mitchell at 252-0010 or glmitchell@seattleschools.org.

(By the way, this is the same Gloria Mitchell who was the T.T. Minor principal until last year and has first-hand knowledge about what it means to be a school slated for closure. She is a former award-winning principal, and a committed, principled advocate for students' needs. What is it about being part of the Seattle Public Schools bureaucracy that could lead someone like Gloria to support the idea of pulling a teacher from a school slated for closure?)

It is likely that other schools slated for closure during Phase I (Whitworth, Rainier View, Fairmount Park, etc.) are facing the same problem. The district should act quickly to protect the current staffing levels at these schools, with prompting by the School Board and parents and community members, if necessary.


Anonymous said...

Beth, where does the money come from to retain the teacher at Viewlands? Should it be taken from another school that does have the enrollment, asking them to forfeit a teacher?

Just because they should be considered necessary and anticipated costs (which they were) doesn't mean there is money to pay for them. My work with the school and central budgets makes it clear (to me) there isn't undesignated, unneeded money sitting there for redirection such as you're suggesting. (I am not a district EE, BTW.)

There are protections for the teacher (all outside - and possibly inside - hiring is frozen until teachers affected by these situations are placed), so unless this is creating extreme class sizes at Viewlands or extreme hardship for the students (esp the autism inclusion students), this is just the unfortunate fallout of a district with too many buildings for its enrollment and a state not meeting its constitutional requirement to amply fund basic education.

IMHO, our greatest outrage should be reserved for the state, and our efforts directed there.

Beth Bakeman said...

I think at Viewlands you could easily make the case for "extreme hardship" for the Aspergers Autism inclusion program students.

I'm guessing that changing teachers and classmates and probably schedules would be quite disruptive for these students.

I'll ask Lynn or other Viewlands advocates to give us more details.

In the Viewlands case, it is my understanding that the principal did set aside money in the budget to keep a teacher in case enrollment declined. But the school is being charged the average district teacher salary, rather than the actual teacher salary, and therefore are unable to afford to keep the teacher.

Seems to me we are talking about a VERY small amount of money. How about some of the Gates money or other funds designated to help the school make system-wide changes? I don't buy the argument that there is no available money for this purpose.

Anonymous said...

First, the Phase I work was done after the enrollment period. Viewlands had not been on the closure list before the CAC work. Maybe parents felt uneasy or just did not support the school; it's hard to know but I'm not sure you can say it was because of closures.

Second, the money in the district is very strictly divided. You can't take money from pot A and put it in pot B. The Gates money is targeted for very specific things; they do not give a blank check and, in fact, have a lot of caveats to the way their money is used.

Last, I have always wondered about schools having to pay the "average" teacher salary versus what the cost of the teacher really is. It's confusing and you end up with situations such as this.

Beth Bakeman said...

Melissa, I'm guessing (although not certain) that we are talking about changes in enrollment that happened since the July closure vote, which would make this a direct result of the closure decision.

Anonymous said...

Since my son is one of those "Autism Asperger kids," I feel qualified to comment on this issue.
For those who feel that we should make a case for extreme hardship to salvage what is left of his experience of being a Viewlands' student, trust me, it isn't a hard case to make. I spent the weekend trying to understand why my son, who has NEVER done this in his LIFE!!!! repeatedly was sobbing and saying, "I don't want to say goodbye." I had NO idea what this was about until I arrived at school yesterday to learn that some of the kids in his class have been asking if the teacher feels sad that the school is closing, and they won't be there anymore. My son, in his AS way, was telling me that he is upset because he is going to have to say goodbye to teachers and friends that he has come to trust.
Flash forward to a couple of weeks from now - kids more settled into their classes, used to their teachers, classmates - and then take away 2 teachers, and what do you think will happen??? I suspect the weekend I had is just a prelude if this scenerio comes to pass...
So here is a good question. When I go to see the Social Worker tomorrow to get some ideas about how to help my son through this mess, who should pay for that???
Since everything seems to have a dollar amount, I wonder what is my son worth to the SSD? Probably less than the therapy bill I will be presenting to them.

Beth Bakeman said...

Good news from Lynn tonight "that the decision has been reversed" and Viewlands gets to keep all their teachers.

Please post if you know about Whitworth or Rainier View or other schools slated for closure experiencing last minute staffing reductions.

Anonymous said...

good news! We keep our teachers - we actually had the funds, contrary to your statement. With regard to 'My work with the school', there are quite a few people at Viewlands who would like to know who you are, and what role you play in the Viewlands family..

Beth Bakeman said...

I read weary's comment to mean she works for the school district, not that she is specifically connected with Viewlands.