By Dianna Huculak
Behind me are 80 black balloons, which represent the teachers that have resigned or taken leaves of absences to never return over the past 3 years. These were 80 colleagues, friends, and talented educators who decided to leave our school community because they did not feel that their professionalism and hard work was valued or respected by our district. The cost of not being able to retain teachers is more than a name on your certificated personnel report, the loss of our friends and colleagues ripples out into the community. Imagine if one balloon is an elementary school teacher- that means 29 children experience the loss of a trusted adult, those children’s parents losea partner and advocate for their child’s success. Another balloon could represent a secondary teacher, who sees over 150 students a day- again, that’s 150 children plus their families. Perhaps some students were counting on that teacher writing a recommendation for college applications, but now that teacher is gone, and who is going to write them effective, thoughtful letters so that they, the students are rewarded for their hard work? That’s just two balloons. There are 78 more to consider.
I’m not a Math teacher, but you can multiply the loss, and realize that thousands of children and their families in our community have been negatively impacted by the district’s lack of vision and inability to retain teachers. As educators we know that consistent, caring adults are essential to children’s socio emotional development- yet the constant churning of teachers, who serve some of our most vulnerable students, creates wholly preventable and unnecessary stress and instability in our schools. As school trustees you could choose to take action to ensure that our district reflects the values of our community, or you can continue in the same policies and ensure that thousands of more children will lose consistent, caring adults in their lives.
Speaking of retention of faculty, tonight, you are approving even more teachers working 120%. I have to question why this is necessary, as we’ve been assured that most of our positions have been filled. As school trustees, is it your position that having teachers, in some cases, entire departments work 120% an educational best practice? Do you maintain that it is beneficial for students to have even less meaningful access to their teachers? Some in the district office may argue that the “opportunity” to work 120% is beneficial to teachers, but do you think exploiting the low salary of teachers in our district is a sustainable way to solve the problem of attracting and retaining teachers ? Should you not also be concerned about burnout and educators leaving to find another district in which their work is respected to the point that they don’t have to take on additional FTE to support their families? While this is a serious teacher issue, it mostly impacts our students. Class size and caseload limits exist for a reason. Serious overages, which exist at Davis senior high school, and handing out additional fte to teachers, while convenient solution in the short term, are a serious equity issue for a our students. For a high risk students, for gifted students, for english learners, for any student, relationships and trust in adults are paramount in motivating them to learn. When packed into a class of 39 in high school, or a kindergarten class of 29, how many opportunities can they have in a class to have meaningful interactions with their teacher? To feel like they are heard and their contributions are valued by their teacher? As school trustees, you could work to ensure that our class and work day limits are respected, recognizing that they exist to benefit students, or you can continue the same policies because they are convenient.
At this point, I won’t take up too much time commenting on the proposed facilities bond, but let me just say, I am unclear on why you are putting buildings before people. Why is remodeling the district office a higher priority than creating a trusting and caring environments for the children of our community. The facilities bond does nothing to address the problem of the teaching shortage,, the upcoming wave of teacher retirements, or, our inability to retain teachers.
I’m not only standing up here as a Teacher’s association president, and your employee, but I am also a concerned community member. I am worried about the future of our school district. All you have to do is look behind me and think about how how teachers leaving our districts impacts our students to understand why.
As an association students are our focus, it is our goal that students have caring and qualified teachers, that our school communities are stable and sustainable so that students can be successful. I hope that you share these values with us and that we can work together to achieve them.
Dianna Huculak is the DTA President