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