Potential Teacher Loss: What You Can Do

As Principal Jaskot mentioned in the Dayette this week and at the Curriculum Night meeting last night, due to lower than expected 1st grade enrollment numbers, the School District may force B.F. Day to reduce our 1st grade classrooms from 3 to 2. This move will make it necessary to move all kids from Room 305 (Ms. Ahron’s class) into the other two 1st grade classes, with some also moving to a new 1st/2nd grade split class. This review of enrollment numbers as of Oct. 1 is an annual process, and several schools will lose (or gain) teachers based on the number of kids in each school on this date.

We, the PTSA board and the building leadership, do not want this to happen, and we need help from our broad parent community to make sure the District knows our views. The District plans to announce their teacher reductions on Monday, October 5.  We need parents to contact District leadership today (Thursday, October 1) or tomorrow to have an impact.

Below are talking points about this issue that you can use to contact the decision-makers at Seattle Public Schools, and some tips for effective messaging. Please note that the District has not yet decided if this is to happen to B.F. Day – show your concern about the potential decision, and make your case.

Thank you!  Feel free to contact me, Principal Jaskot or other board members if you have any questions.

– Steve Albertson (for the board)
PTSA Board president

——————–

Who To Email at Seattle Public Schools:

Communication Recommendations:

  • Send an email to each person on the list.
  • Use the talking points as guidelines, but use your own words (and your own personal stories) if you can.
  • Be respectful in your communication, recognizing that the decision to remove a teacher won’t be made until Monday, October 5and we may not be selected for this. We are “concerned about the upcoming decision, and we want to tell you why” is a good way to think about it.
  • Please consider blind-copyingpresident@bfdayptsa.org when you send the email so we can see what B.F. Day parents are saying and to whom (helps when we do follow-up communication with them).

Talking Points/Suggested Text:

My name is [      ], and I am a parent of a [   ] grade student at B.F. Day Elementary.  This week we were informed by our principal that due to lower than expected enrollment in our 1st grade classes, we may be forced to remove a 1st grade position and move the students from that class into other classes (including the creation of a split class).  I’m concerned about this possible decision because of the way it will negatively impact our school, and wanted to let you know why.

1.  We went through this last year – we shouldn’t have to experience it again.  We experienced the loss of a teacher last year, for similar enrollment reasons.  Losing a teacher in October is hard on students and on the teaching staff, and increases the perception of instability at the school. This, in turn, can lead to parents questioning whether to send their kids to the school, which can impact enrollment and can feed this negative cycle. We have strong momentum leading into this year, and the loss of a teaching position will hinder the progress we are making as a school.  The uncertainty about teaching positions due to enrollment shortfalls also makes it harder to attract and retain high-quality teachers.

2.  Removing a teacher impacts the entire school, and B.F. Day has enough challenges already:  Among all the other elementary schools in the Hamilton Service Area, we have the highest percentage of students qualifying for the Free and Reduced Lunch program, the highest percentage of Special Education (including an SM3 program) students, and the highest percentage of English Language Learners.  We are also a Spectrum school with advanced learners requiring differentiation in every grade. As a community, we embrace these aspects of our school, but know that this population mix presents challenges that less-diverse schools don’t face.  Losing a teacher disrupts the entire school, and makes it that much harder to help everyone succeed.  We worked hard to recover from a teacher loss last year. B.F. Day should not have to experience this again this year.

3.  This is a symptom of bigger enrollment issues, and we should be working to strengthen B.F. Day, not weaken it by removing resources:  Our school is currently under enrolled, and we have space to accommodate additional students that are currently over-crowding other nearby elementary schools.  Enrollment data from 2014-15 suggests that students who live in the B.F. Day attendance area are being allowed to enroll at neighboring schools, even those that are over crowded and seeking portables to accommodate the additional students. In a school district that is out of space nearly everywhere in the North End, the District should be making great efforts to help drive more students to B.F. Day instead of making it less attractive to parents by removing teachers and increasing instability at the school. A strong B.F. Day helps solve our capacity problems, and you do not strengthen a school by removing a classroom.

4.  A teacher reduction may be short-lived:  At Curriculum Night tonight, our principal walked us through the enrollment numbers in our primary classrooms. We jointly worked through various scenarios that included combination classes in Kindergarten/1st (K/1) or 1st/2nd (1/2).  In either scenario, removal of a 1st grade classroom and shifting students to other classes would shrink our K or 2nd grade capacity to near zero, meaning that any new students who come in during the year in those grades(a frequent occurrence) may necessitate overage pay to existing teachers (for teaching bigger classes), or re-opening another class to get the per-class numbers to within District guidelines. Also, since B.F. Day already has another combination classroom at Grades 4/5, and we are anticipating that no school will be asked to house more than 2 combination classrooms, no other classroom configuration options were considered. Why disrupt the teachers and students at two grade levels given the mobility rate of our school? Why place primary classrooms at their maximum capacity when class size reduction efforts place the goal closer to 23 students?

We believe this process of making staffing changes in October is harmful to students and school communities everywhere, not just at B.F. Day.  Given our population, the broader enrollment issues facing the district, and the fact that we experienced a teacher loss just a year ago, our school should not be a candidate for losing a classroom position. We urge you to take these issues into account as you make your teacher allocation decisions for the October 5 deadline.

Sincerely,
[Name, email, phone]

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