After going without instruction in crucial subject areas for a marking period, students of School 21 may finally see permanent teachers in their classrooms which have been manned mostly by temporary substitutes.
11 vacancies since the start of the school year left 5th and 7th grade students without language arts teachers at the school.
7th graders did not have math teachers, according to Naomi Gamorra, teacher at the 10th Avenue school. 4th grade is missing a science teacher, she said on October 21st, 2015.
“As of today there are still no teachers in the classrooms that had not been staffed since September,” said Gamorra. “There are no seventh grade teachers. The only seventh grade teacher is on family leave. There is zero seventh grade teachers in School 21.”
State-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans said the situation has changed. “Things have changed,” he said.
Chanie Peterson, principal at School 21, said school staff have been interviewing and holding demonstration lessons to make selections for the vacant positions.
“We’ve come down considerably,” said Peterson. She said the vacancies have been reduced to four.
A 7th grade math teacher has been selected, said the principal. She said that teacher began reporting yesterday.
Peterson said a 7th grade language arts teacher also has been selected. Two first and second grade bilingual teachers have been interviewed and demonstration lessons have been scheduled to potentially hire them.
A 4th grade social studies teacher has been selected. A 5th grade language arts teacher is being transferred from elsewhere in the district who will start teaching tomorrow, said Peterson.
A vacant 3rd grade science and social studies post was filled in September, said the principal.
A vacant special education teacher has been selected as well, said Peterson. A bilingual math teacher vacancy in the 8th grade is difficult to fill, she said. “Historically, it’s difficult to find math and science teachers,” she said.
Though teachers have been selected they have not yet been put into the classroom. The principal said she is interviewing candidates and have lined up demonstration lessons to rapidly fill the vacancies.
Peterson, who said she became principal at the school on August 17, 2015, said a number of teachers have resigned from their posts worsening the shortage. Gamorra raised doubts about Evans’ message that much has changed at the school.
The teacher has attended three meetings since September. Most recently, she came before the board in late October, to inform them students have been going without vital subjects for almost two months.
“You are depriving these children of their right to an education,” repeated Gamorra on Wednesday utterly frustrated at not seeing teachers in the classrooms.
School board member Lilisa Mimms wondered how report card night – tomorrow — is to function at the school without permanent teachers. She also inquired as to how the school intends to grade the students.
“Obviously, we can’t fail them,” said the principal. Grade will be issued based on assignments completed by students and collected by substitute teachers, she said.
“It doesn’t sit well with me,” said a visibly angry Mimms. She described the situation as “unacceptable.”
Even if the district ensures every classroom at School 21 has a teacher, students will have still lost a quarter of their school instruction for the year.
“If the school is fully staffed tomorrow you still have done a terrible thing to these children,” said Gamorra. “We don’t know how this is going to affect their future or the future of this community.”
November 19th, 2015: Peterson was made principal on Aug. 17, not after the school year began, as was erroneously noted in a previous version of this story.