Staff Turnover Crisis Continues at SHUSD, Says Letter to the Editor

School Bus in Lights hiring

Southern Humboldt Unified School District Bus with a “Now Hiring” sign at the 2015 Lighted Parade.

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Dear Editor,

I have two children in the Southern Humboldt Unified School District. My eldest is enrolled in 9th grade at South Fork. Since she started this school year, she has had three different math teachers, three different PE teachers, and two Spanish teachers. The Vice Principal/Spanish teacher has been terminated, the Principal is quitting, beloved (and vital) Student Services Tech Anne Constantino’s position was terminated, the South Fork Secretary and the Cook are retiring (both of whom also teach), and a respected Junior High math teacher was also terminated.

Not counting the staff that will be hired to replace the above faculty members, the Southern Humboldt Teachers Association has confirmed that already fully 50% of district faculty is in their 2 year probationary period. No school can sustain such devastating turnover, never mind a school in such an isolated rural area.

I co-founded and ran the Harris Learning Center from 2009 to 2013. There is a nationwide teaching shortage. Finding qualified staff in almost any sector is a genuine challenge in Southern Humboldt. Finding qualified teachers is critically difficult. It seems a no brainer that retaining and training promising staff should be of primary importance.

Yet, SHUSD is shedding staff faster than my dog sheds in June. Curious about the reasons why, I began contacting past and present employees. To be fair, there are several factors: a tight housing market, lower pay at the higher pay tiers (causing a trend toward SHUSD serving as a feeder school to better paying districts in the county), however, over and over again, I hear that the hemorrhage of qualified staffed is mainly due to the hostile management of Superintendent Catherine Scott.

Having a viable school system is a fundamental part of the health of this community, and having a strong, stable faculty is fundamental to the health of our school system. As the Humboldt economy transitions to a more mainstream one, the chance of life success with marginal education will be ever slimmer.

How will students taught by a never ending cycle of student teachers and new hires be able to compete? I urge the School Board to investigate these allegations with an independent, community sourced committee. I urge parents concerned about the quality of education and the loss of SHUSD’s brain trust to attend school board meetings, to question decisions, to ask about test results, and to share their successes, worries, concerns, hopes and dreams.

I understand that current staff may feel too intimidated to do so, but I exhort former members of SHUSD staff to share their stories. The next school board meeting is on Thursday, June 9th at 4:30 at Redway School.

Ann Hammond

Garberville

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44 comments

  • Ernie Branscomb

    I think that the difficulties extend way beyong the schools. The problem in the schools are a manifestation of a much deeper and wider problem in Southern Humboldt. Ask any business how difficult it is to hire and retain quality employees. Most all all are struggling with an under-staffed and over worked crew.

    It is difficult to built and maintain a viable community when the major economic engine is mostly underground with no regulation. Talk to anyone in the “underground economy” and they will tell you the same thing. It is difficult to keep a well trained and happy crew.

    I don’t see any great leaders stepping forward to solve this problem. The only thing that I see is NOT that government is trying to legitimize the underground economy, but tax it to the point that it will keep it driven underground. Nothing can be regulated and organized unless everyone is a willing partner.

    The problems in the school is not going to be solved from the bottom upward, but from the top down. That problem probably starts at the national level. That is why this Presidential election is being so closely followed. Do you want status quo? Or is it time to mix it up?

    • You miss the point . Cathrine Scott has to go ! She is a vile person and if you deal closely with her you will see she . She is not a go getter . She is a stick in the mud . Unmovable in her ideals with no accountability because all the cronnieism . She makes horrible financial mistakes that if not for certain members of certain committees would have never been brought to light . Look into the finacial paperwork for the 2013 2014 and 2015 comprehensive spending plan . The paperwork submitted to the state was not accurate . It took three meetings with her to bring it to light . They ” found ” 35 thousand dollars not brought over from the previous year and argued vehemently that it didn’t exist until the third meeting where they informed the council was wrong about where the money was and was not but there was definitely 35 thousand thy forgot to move from the previous year. Then they find 4K more from an overfunded project . That’s how the high school got hot water . We were still railroaded and never got the real comprehensive spending plan even though it’s public info and We requested it on behalf of the Redway site council . She handed us false financial documents that later We proved false and she claimed she just drew them up real quick to satisfy our request .
      She needs to be replaced by someone with a passion for education . This has nothing to do with the national system . This has everything to do with laziness ! The hidden economy doesn’t change how this lady dictated failing policy and bullied anyone who pointed out her failing way . She tried to bully us but We would not quit and it helped . I will never trust her again . After all she did work for McCalister .

      • Grr,
        Obviously something is wrong or Scott would have more support for her positions. Their are no “true professionals” anymore, and the Peter Principle” seems to fit most executives. It is sad to see our schools in such turmoil. If Scott is replaced, as most of you are insisting, I hope that you will involve yourselves in the selecting, and take some of the responsibility if it all goes bad. Good teachers are far more important than any other aspect of the schools, including books, building, and infrastructure.

        Available money is often earmarked for specific things and it is impossible to change it’s use. To a certain extent that is okay, otherwise it would end up in the wrong pockets. However, we as voters have some control over that spending. It is encouraging that we are experiencing a “voter spring”, where voters are becoming aware of the corruption in politics, and are screaming bloody murder for real change. We need more wild-card candidates with some better ideas to bring government back to the citizens.

      • I would like to clarify that when I say found there was nothing actually missing it was just a paperwork accident that was rectified . No one was purposely trying to mislead anyone it was in my opinion an accident .

  • Ernie, I agree with some of your points, however, the problems with employee turnover at South Fork is much different than our local businesses employee problem. The school has staff members that actually want to stay and are being fired, there are staff members that have been there for numerous years that had no plans of quitting who are being FIRED! These teachers aren’t leaving because they got a trim job, there leaving because Katherine Scott is making them. She has found some easy way to get around the financial problems that all districts face by running a teacher mill instead of finding other solutions. Other low budgeted schools find other ways, and our able to keep there dedicated staff. I have students in this district, I’ve been to meetings, I’ve tried to get Katherine to get nurses back on campus, I’ve tried to get AEDS on campus. She is not willing to work with me, she ingnores our Students best interests, she doesn’t care that the students don’t have lockers, and now are raising money them selves to buy them. I could go on and on about what she is doing to this district, she may have helped pas the bonds and get the schools looking better, but what good is that if they are falling apart on the inside. Like you said things need to change from the top, and that’s why she needs to change or she needs to go!

  • It’s the same thing with Doctor’s.what a shame.i agree with you totally

  • In all fairness to Catherine Scott, the staffing problems at the Southern Humboldt Unified School District are more complex than outlined in Ms. Hammond’s eye-opening letter.

    Principal Jim Stewart is well-known to play favorites with his staff, a habit that degrades the moral of the district. Quite frankly I don’t know how Jim Stewart would or could accomplish anything in the absence of Mary Moore and Michael Parks.

    Beyond this I imagine it would be hard to hold on to mathematics teachers if administrators continues to farm out the more desirable mathematics courses (from an instructor standpoint) to the district’s non-mathematics’ credentialed science teacher Jared Parks. If you have doubts, look it up:

    http://www.ctc.ca.gov/lookup.html.

    I imagine that a credentialed mathematics teacher might feel like a second or third class citizen were he/she solely assigned the lowest-level mathematics courses offered by the district.

    It also doesn’t help that the district adopted College Preparatory Mathematics® (CPM), perhaps the worst mathematics curricula in existence.

    Regarding the Spanish teacher issue I think that it is fair to say that loading the job on Assistant Principal Michael Parks lacked good judgement in that it served as a distraction from Mr. Parks primary obligations to the district, that being student management and picking up Jim Stewarts’ slack.

    • Jared Parks has a teaching credential. It is a science credential. He also teaches math…and the inference here is without a math credential he is not qualified to teach math. His degree is in physics and he is quite capable of teaching any high school level math course. So…he has both a teaching credential (qualifying him to teach) and a math background (meaning he is subject knowledgeable ).
      All that having been said he will add the math credential to his impressive portfolio by years end. He delayed getting yet another credential this long due to his running two quite popular after school clubs while at the same time finishing his second year of BITSA (a mandatory two year program for new teachers) AND helping with things such as sporting events (taking tickets etc.) and the drama department (building props for the play etc.).
      Year before last Valdez and Wahlund were our math teachers. They left. Last year we had Mendoza full time and Arnold and Rios splitting time between junior and senior high teaching the remainder of the math courses. Mendoza left and Rios and Arnold this year taught exclusively at the junior high.
      We started this year with Parks teaching two science and three math classes and a new hire…I can’t even recall his name…was to teach math full time. I won’t get into the details but he quit in something of a snit on the very first day. That kind of unstable person I think the district is better off without so no loss but…math teachers don’t grow on trees and the position once again needed filled.
      A teacher who had left the profession (she used to teach math here a few years ago) agreed to help and she taught for…oh a month or two. After her departure Mr. Baker, already a district employee, stepped forward to fill the void. He has done his level best but in addition to the normal hurdles teaching entails it is always a difficult thing to take over a class midyear.
      So given this background, how does attacking Parks, the popular competent quite successful teacher of math (that remains with our district although he could pretty much write his own ticket anywhere else he wished to go) help our math department…or more importantly our students…in any way shape or form?
      Stewart is stepping down as principal at years end so I will not address that part except to say he will be missed by most of us.
      I will end the reply by agreeing with you that Mary Moore will be sorely missed. She was and still is one of a kind and I wish her all the best in retirement.

      • Is it not possible to add another subject to a single subject teaching credential by taking and passing a standardized exam? I did this years ago, adding social science to the two subjects I was already certificated (yes, that’s a real word in education jargon) to teach. The exam was given at HSU and took about three hours to complete.

        • I believe that for the math credential a single semester long course…I think it is a three credit course…is needed before the standardized exam.

          • You’re right about an extra course being required (I checked), something that has been added since my day, and not a bad idea. When I did the teaching program at HSU in the 80s, the course I took in the English Dept. in the methodology of teaching English was the only worthwhile course in the whole program. But don’t teachers now need to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education each year to keep their credentials valid? (I believe it used to be 30 hrs. a year.) I know in-service courses count for some of this, but surely not all. Couldn’t the required course be counted towards this requirement?

            • I am unsure if a way around this exists, and Parks is not seeking to get around it anyway. He will take the class then the test and in short order the point will be moot.
              The course by the way….I THINK…is designed to give new teachers math related teaching skills not math skills themselves. I doubt very much when the requirements were drawn up the people doing so envisioned this particular situation but I am sure everyone involved meant well. One size never fits all. (HAH just coined a phrase lol)

    • Marianne Lancaster

      Jared is the highest quality math teacher we could have. Do you know how fortunate we are to have him at SFHS?? A competent caring teacher who is able to teach physics, chemistry, and higher level math? What is wrong with your thinking Bluntsreef? The students love him!

      • You are more off-base than you will ever know.

        Do not assume that your knowledge, expertise or credentials exceed that of those you target with your impassioned comments.

        Reread my post and you will discover that Mr. Parks was never defamed in any manner. Neither his character nor teaching ability was ever addressed.

        Why are you so eager to make baseless assumptions?

        It seems as though you are hypersensitive and gunning for a fight with anyone who doesn’t share your politics or prejudices.

        • You did however bring into question the character of Mr. Stewart, one of the finest of gentlemen and most dedicated of educators it has ever been my good fortune to work with. Just saying.

          • I agree with Michael Parks. Jim Stewart is the kind of role model kids need in SoHum. He is at work on time, stays all day, and is at every game. Every student at South Fork will say something good about him, even if they have had to see him for discipline. He is fair, firm, and listens really well.

  • Go get ’em, Ann!

  • Merna kemp should run it all .I remember her when I was I Elementary School Merna was the best when we had rainy day schedule she would watch over us we went to the gym for recess and yes this is kym kemp s mom . Or school district should have clones of merna kemp and all the problems would be solved

  • This doesn’t surprise me in the least, ever since I saw a pta announcement last year asking for input on the common core being implemented. Not one parent showed up. The teachers face severe penalties if they dare speak out against cc.
    For those who don’t know what cc is, or those who have fallen for the standardized schooling supplied by & enforced by govt, I highly recommend researching more about it. Charlotte Isabyt’s videos and books are free online. She was the WH’s chief educational something during Regan years. The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com
    Interview by we are change introduces her. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yWHhLfc0VLg
    One of the rare interviews where Alex dreadful jones doesn’t interrupt at all, can be found on YouTube. That interview is thorough & incredibly important to watch.

  • Blunts Reef brings up some good points! Catherine Scott also hires people she’s knows, the fill in Sub for Spanish was her friend, that Lady failed over half the class in the short time she was allowed power over are students. She told me herself in email that she didn’t like it hear, and was just doing Scott a favor. And when Mary Moore is gone that school will fall apart!!

  • LeAnna Carson-Hansen

    So sad to see this. I was under the impression that the school was doing so well. Sigh.

  • So anybody that is a friend to this lady can teach class even if they have no teaching creditation . Just Joe blow off the streets wow .

    • It is possible to get an “emergency credential” if no teachers in the given subject are available. Of course, this all depends on how hard those in charge try to find a qualified person. When I worked in Miranda many years ago, a colleague with a certificate in English was assigned to teach a math class! The attitude of the administration was “teaching is teaching.” She refused and they capitulated. Of course, it helped that she was at the time the president of the teachers’ union.

  • Dyerville Loop is Not Alderpoint

    This is the third version of Ann Hammonds letter ive seen for the public to read ,and i believe its the full letter. The Redwood times letter was edited to to exclude some powerful words, ” hostile management” and MS” Scott” the principals name was completely missing[ friends of MS S. on the staff of the Times ?] the Independent was closer , and almost full. Thanks for printing what i hope is the full letter Kim. Please come to the board meetings and stay till the END of the meetings , that is when the heads roll, votes are often taken when the public is sleeping.And if you really want to see a spectacle, go see math teacher Bob Baker in his pink leg warmers.I cant have made this one up.. From what i hear the class is complete pandamonium. Correct me if i’m wrong but i don’t think MS Scott was even working for our district when the bonds were passed, so i dont know how she helped with the passing. And no lockers yet? w.t.f.

  • And another excellent teacher in her 2nd year at Redway elementary, Miss Green, is also being let go for absolutely ridiculous reasons. I’m sure this was in NO WAY influenced by the small exodus of children from her class- the parents were all friends of each other, AND supporters of Paula Panfilio and Catherine Scott. They claimed she was “too harsh”, because she didn’t allow them to disrupt her class. So now if a child or parent “doesn’t like their teacher” they can also have them terminated just because they are buddies with the higher ups….it seems we need teachers/principals/a superintendent that don’t/doesn’t cater to certain parent teacher groups, but to the general need of education.

  • Homeschool your kids. The narcissism, nepotism and and lazy lack of inspiration and intelligence in our local schools and admin is why i kept my children as far away as possible for as long as possible. My experience with one who did briefly enter our local public school system was shocking and demoralizing. One teacher informed me she did not assign any writing assignments because ” I don’t have time to edit 31 papers..” The science curriculum textbook they use in the eighth grade is the same one that was provided for us with our *6th grade* homeschool curriculum. That is dumbed down. Grammar /writing / lit emphasis is nil. Here students are asked to accept the insensitive insults of burnt out lazy instructors who routinely pop in
    another video while they suck up tenure benefits. Seek out and use the alternatives. For younger children it is said you may not be the best teacher but you are the best teacher for your child. Find a sound curriculum and enjoy your child’s childhood with them. High School options are obviously only up North. South Fork is dying a slow and shameful death.

    • Marianne Lancaster

      You are very harsh to criticize us when you are not in the classroom. For your information, the physical science books ARE 8th grade level. That is a ridiculous claim you make. Traditionally, life science is 7th grade and physical science is 8th grade. Our science teachers at the junior high and the high school work very hard to educate your children. This is totally unfair and shows a Total lack of understanding and respect. Come to my class ANY day and I’ll show you science teaching! We are more supported by our administration than we are by ranting people in the community like you.

      • Addressing this parent’s concerns in this manner is condescending and wholly unprofessional — for any educator — in any community.

        Your conduct is appalling.

        • Marianne Lancaster

          Your conduct is appalling and extremely offensive and unprofessional. Why don’t you come visit South Fork and observe us in action?

        • Marianne Lancaster

          Also you don’t reveal who you are and neither does “anon”. What do you have to hide. I have nothing to hide and would love to sit down and talk with both of you eye to eye.
          Sincerely ,
          Your condescending unprofessional apalling educator.

          • Good point Marianne. I am the one who posted under the name Jareds Dad but my name….in case anyone was interested….is Michael Parks. Going forward I will post (if ever I post again) using my full actual name. ( If the moderator wishes feel free to change Jareds Dad to Michael Parks in all my previous posts, as you can see if you care to check the email address is the same.)

  • I my opinion SoHumSchool district gets the short end of the stick when it come to quality teacher. Let’s be honest, this place (SoHum) has nothing to offer economically and not much socially outside of the dope industry, so why would we be overflowing with top quality teaching candidates? Unless said awesome teacher has a reason to be here like family or likes the redwoods and seclusion. The majority of candidates are probably only applying here because they can’t get a better teaching positions elsewhere. Maybe Scott is trying to improve the quality of teachers for our students? (I don’t know these teachers personally so correct me if I’m wrong and they are just amazing for the children.) The only alternative to firing that I can think of is re-training teachers and monitoring them…? Let’s face it, if SHUSD can’t afford the lockers that you’re all complaining about what makes you think they can afford to re-train the teachers Scott feels are inadequate?? Think about it. SHUSD is spread so thin between Weott, Miranda, casterlin, white thorn!? That’s a lot of facilities to manage and a lot of money to spread around! We are fortunate to live in such a beatiful area, unfortunately it has its draw backs. -Just another opinion.

  • Jared Parks is an amazing teacher. He will be a reason this school pulls itself out of this mess. Michael Parks was set up to fail, yet always had a positive influence on the students (a difficult task for a VP). Ann has helped hundreds of students achieve their dreams of college or obtaining careers. Ms. Arnold has consistently stayed after school three days a week, all year (even after receiving a pink slip).

    I, as many others have, often asked the big question: what is the meaning of life and why are we here? I truly believe life is about relationships, helping others when they need a hand, and being an encouraging voice to lift spirits. We leave this world with nothing but the memories others have of us, and the connections we’ve made. These people have the qualities I would look for in educators, friends, and colleagues.

  • Thank you KeenObserver! Yes there are some problems at the high school but lets not get carried away picking at little stuff when there is plenty to be upset about. Yes, it is hard to find good teacher any where but here it is really bad. There is no housing reasonable or not so teachers must add travel to the cost of this job and the time to travel. You have to love our kids to stay! You can’t say what a nice drive everyday, it is nice but that is a long drive form Eureka or Arcata. Mind blowing here but our children are not always angels. Ask them they are proud to tell you how they ran off so and so. My opinion here that our science dept. is really nice! You have both Jared Parks and Marianne Lancaster who love teaching science and it shows. A Marine Bio Major and a Physic major we are lucky to have them. Mr Wilsey who teaches English basics so kids get it. Richards who teaches what a college wants to get from you the deeper meaning in literature. We are lucky people. Math well we have a problem there no news to anyone. I see that staff is trying to improve that. Not in all the math classes just one at the high school. I love Arnold I am sorry to see her go. Test scores the reason? Not sure. It wasn’t because she worked extra for any student who wanted to learn. Not fair if you start cc and blame the teacher. Can the staff use more training? Who couldn’t!? I am sure they would welcome that. I am also equally sure they go to a lot of extra training. Am I giving up on South Fork? Hell No! I went there that’s my school! That is your school! We are above average in our county on students going to college! You want to help ask to be on the hiring board. Ask to tutor after school. Get evolved in a meaningful way. Just my opion but hey I only work there what do I know.
    Okay blast away

  • This is all a great example of what southern Humboldt has become. Attack, attack, and blame. The biggest problem with this is southern Humboldt is stacked with a lot of real shitty parents. Thats a fact! These second and third generation pot kids now have their own. They think all they have to do is drop them off and the government subsidized bus program will pick them up at 7:30 and drop them off at 4:30 and the next CEO will appear. Attacking Catherine is a terrible idea. School board meeting have very little attendance, booster club meeting have the same 5 people, but the criticism continues to pile up. I agree that turnover is a problem. However when we have created a community of shitty parents, poor family values, lawlessness, drug culture, and non-professional adults its no wonder that professional teachers don’t stick around.

  • A few notes worthy of community consideration.

    Common Core in Amerika.
    If teachers complain or offer improvements, they are fired.
    If a student fails the teacher is responsible, the teacher is fired.
    School Funding is spent on achieving zero school bus emissions & other mandated regulatory over reach.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/18/everything-you-need-to-know-about-common-core-ravitch/

    http://neatoday.org/2014/11/02/nea-survey-nearly-half-of-teachers-consider-leaving-profession-due-to-standardized-testing-2/

    http://dailycaller.com/2013/12/11/teachers-face-retaliation-for-criticizing-common-core/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-lynch-edd/teachers–the-greatest-co_b_5345781.html

    Thanks to many teachers & parents who have spoken up, groups formed & have been fighting cc all across the nation. It is now possible for students to Opt Out of the standardized testing.
    Teachers against common core.
    Parents against common core.
    California against common core.

    The new mandated lessons recently released by the WH consists of teaching 8 year olds Gender benders.

  • Many teachers in SHUSD are top quality. The high school science teachers, Mr. Parks and Ms. Lancaster, are absolutely phenomenal! I’m sure that the original letter from Ms. Hammond wasn’t meant to criticize our good teachers. It sounds more like a letter in support of good teachers.

    • Marianne Lancaster

      Thank you so much. Youve no idea how your kind words are needed in the midst of so much negativity.

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