Parent Expresses ‘Concern About High Staff Turnover’ in SoHum School District’

 By Jeff Billings [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Entry in the Southern Humboldt Lighted Parade, December 2015 [Photo by Kym Kemp]

Welcome to our letters to the editor/opinion section. To submit yours for consideration, please send to Please consider including an image to be used–either a photograph of you or something applicable to the letter. However, an image is not necessary for publication. Remember opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of Redheaded Blackbelt.

Dear Editor,

Last spring I expressed my concern about high staff turnover in the Southern Humboldt School District, and made allegations to the SHUSD School Board of hostile management by Superintendent Catherine Scott. They were not made lightly and were the result of interviews and research. I also asked the School Board for an explanation of the high staff turnover, and its plan to stop it.

The Board did not take any action. It didn’t ask me for more information, respond favorably to my request for an investigation, nor, apparently, research the issue itself. Instead, it gave Ms. Scott a favorable performance review, and confirmed her contract for another year.

We have already lost over 50% of our faculty since the beginning of Ms. Scott’s tenure. Last year 4 more excellent staff members were ousted. One member of the Board says that many of the previous 3 years’ losses were simply because staff was at retirement age when Ms. Scott came on board. Some of them were, but some were not, and the Board never actually asked them why they left, nor did they conduct any sort of exit survey. It also does not seem interested in surveying our current staff.

So I decided to do it myself.

Last June, other concerned parents and I founded EASE – Educational and Administrative Support Effort – and devised a Staff Satisfaction Survey, which was delivered to 66 members of South Fork, Agnes Johnson, Whitethorn and Redway Schools. Casterlin, the District Office and Miranda Junior High were not surveyed.

66 total surveys were distributed and 23 returned (35%).

As reported in The Humboldt Independent earlier this year, a 12% return rate is considered an enormous success, indicative of a very committed and engaged population. Ours was nearly triple that.

There were 41 questions. In the interests of space, I am only reporting a selection that received a high percentage of agreement/disagreement.

72% feel that their input is not valued and respected by the administration.
79% feel that they are not safe expressing their opinion.
79% feel that they are not encouraged to share their ideas, vision and criticism.
73% feel that their administrator does not respond appropriately and professionally to their concerns.
84% do not feel comfortable expressing an opinion that differs from that of the administration.
64% fear retribution for sharing thoughts, opinions or when they disagree with the administration on their actions and responses.
78% do not agree that the goal of attracting and retaining highly qualified staff is evident in the actions and decisions of the administration
89% do not feel hopeful and positive about the direction the district is going
81% are not satisfied with their job at SHUSD.
77% have considered other employment or early retirement in the last 3 years due to the climate at SHUSD.
61% would not place their child in their school.

This is heartbreaking in so many ways. And alarming.

From a social standpoint, working with students takes dedication, courage and fortitude, and for most teachers it is a life calling. In my opinion, teachers are among the most important professionals around. They have invested years training for one of the most significant jobs there is: informing and forming the next generation.

Our teachers are also friends, neighbors, parents, community members and role models. They, and the staff that support them and our students, deserve recognition and respect on the job and off.

From an educational standpoint, in order to teach our students independence, democracy, critical thinking, and argumentation, our teachers must be able to practice these skills. An environment where they feel unsafe to risk, disagree, or express thoughts and opinions is not conducive to sharing these skills.

From a common sense standpoint, there is a national teacher shortage. Southern Humboldt, in particular, has a hard time finding and retaining quality employees in any sector. Retaining and investing in our teachers should be of primary importance to our district.

Superintendent Scott has informed me that she is legally unable to discuss the EASE Staff Satisfaction Survey with me, although I have met with her and Trustee Barbara Lindsey to discuss my personal concerns.

I feel strongly that the Board is not serving the school district by refusing to consider these issues. I understand that it can only take action on items placed on the agenda by a Board member or the Superintendent, or in response to an official complaint. I urge the Board to place the high staff turnover and allegations of hostile management on the Board agenda.
Superintendent Scott told me that she has considered doing an official SHUSD Staff Satisfaction Survey, which I strongly support. It should be done professionally, it should not be managed by Superintendent Scott, and it should be done soon. To be effective, it must include questions suggested anonymously by staff, as well as many of the questions from the EASE Staff Satisfaction Survey. It also must be absolutely anonymous, to ensure that staff feel safe answering openly.

Running a school district is a difficult job. To really work it must be a community endeavor. I urge parents and community members to attend Board meetings, ask questions, write letters, share stories, volunteer and get to know our Board members and SHUSD staff. Let the Board and administration know that you care, and are paying attention.

I certainly am.

Ann Hammond



  • the misadventures of bunjee

    OY. So much back up and at least an honest research try only to have some local lizard queen throw it into the trash. Which seems to be why it’s being conducted in the first place. Lawyer up Ann. You’re going to be flinged off like a fly unless you shove it into a courtroom and they have to defend accusations. You’ve already done some of the homework.

  • Honeydew Bridge Chump

    Teachers might be scared to discipline grower terrorist children in fear of an attack.

    They also have to compete in the housing market with the growers.

    I could see them being terrorized by growers for teaching drugs are the road to nowhere.

    Once weed is grown elsewhere things will return to better days, it’s just a matter of time.

    • The letter that Ann Hammond wrote is in response to the Superintendent’s relationship with the teachers and staff of SHUFSD, and makes no mention of issues with the local growers, housing, or drugs. Although these may be factors in peoples’ lives, that is not the issue being discussed, so your reply is non-responsive and completely irrelevant.

    • Look up l.a times article: salinas valley Marijuana farming.
      It’s already over for nor cal.

    • What a trollish response to a serious issue

  • Let’s see, make $1,000 a month working for the school or make a $h1t load more growing? which should i choose?

  • A parent/community member created, conducted and reports this perception “survey”, presents it as “research”, writes rather inflamatory comments about an individual, clearly shows a lack of knowledge about the education field and has it shared in this public forum?

    What professional experience does this individual have in the construction of perception questions? Rankings? Distractors and problems with length? What measures were taken to avoid confirmation bias? Open ended questions? Language/ambiguity? Scale used?

    While personal opinions and feelings about businesses, employees and the like have their place in communities, letters such as the one from Ms Hammond can be interpreted as simply a (personal) grievance given a public forum. I have to discount her letter as such, in part because the actual data from the district clearly confirms that the SoHum School District is very successful in terms of student outcomes, staffing (turnover, experience, pay,etc) is all pretty much on a par with the states ss, or is much better! In particular to note, a recent six year WASC accreditation, the first since 1998, clearly indicates that something is going very, very right in the SoHum District. The valid data is out there. I suggest Ms. Hammond avail herself of it. Start with CDE.

    • You are totally correct initially, but sound like a complete dick. Post a 6 year data set of student acheivements. 3 for her and the three years prior.

  • The high school has about 80 or 90% of its teachers from out of the area. They earn so little that they cannot afford housing in So Hum, which is inflated because of the amount of money generated by the pot industry. One teacher bought a home in Humboldt Hill. One travels all the way from McKinleyville, daily, to teach our kids. If they could get a job in No Hum they would, and many do, hence part of the reason for the turn over rate. Also there have been terrible decisions made as to staff hired, particularly one principal a few years ago who was hired by Scott, who selected 3 of her top favorites from the over a dozen applicants, brought the 3 before the hiring committee who then hired one, as the other two were not even credentialed or had experience necessary to do an admin job. That person came to SFHS with 2 lawsuits pending against her and had been fired from Arcata High, and was a friend of Scott (who makes how much??). Teachers, students and staff reported she was a nightmare to work with. Many left. People report that the current Redway School principal is also a nightmare to work with. These factors all contribute to teachers, students and staff leaving the district, switching over to Mattole Valley schools, going to AR or homeschooling.

    • Maybe the teachers would be more involved in the students and school if housing was provided at a reasonable rate while on staff. It would be a good investment. Maybe someone out there has home / homes willing to contribute.

      As for teachers themselves they use to be hired by other teachers / counselors going to other schools and watching them teach and asking questions there. Then if interested the teacher would come to our scholl and check it out for themselves.
      Now they are hired at a hiring event and reading resume’

      Not saying it’s wrong it’s just the way it is so of course there will be more turnover.

      Kids react well to teachers who are interesting and innovative and if teachers see them engaging why wouldn’t they stay
      We have to provide the tools they need if that means parents backing teachers — then that’s what we need to do

      • Kick the bums out of the extravagantly built new GV sec 8 housing complex. Long run, creates more housing for long term low mid income folks like Sohum teachers. BUMS OUT TEACHERS IN! Gavel gavel gavel……

        • WTF are you talking about? *What* Gville section 8 housing?

          The 2 bedroom ordinary house just down the street from me was just rented out for $1800/month. Fing outrageous.

  • Several years ago I left SHUSD to take a position in school administration. Catherine Scott is one of my go-to persons when I need sound, logic, legally defensible advise. Catherine has many years of strong school administration leadership behind her, she is a wealth of knowledge. My respect for her as an administrator has grown over the years as I have gotten further and further into my role as a school administrator. SHUSD is fortunate to have her as a leader.

  • In addition to the high turnover rate, there are other questions. One is, why would students and parents at Miranda Junior High need to raise money for personal lockers after voters passed a massive bond issue for construction and remodeling in the district? According to the October 18 report in the Independent, superintendent Catherine Scott said she didn’t know why personal lockers were not included in the campus makeover. It was discussed, she said, but never given a top priority. They were more concerned, she said, with “…making sure we had all the money we needed” for other projects. Also, students and parents at Whitethorn raised money for repairs after the bond issue passed. Why was this necessary? What are the district’s priorities? The survey results are alarming. For the board and the superintendent to stonewall this is disturbing.

    • School doesnt want lockers (drugs obv). Warrants are mostly deemed unnecessary for HS lockers. But…. 18 yo seniors have a right to privacy; some own tax paying property. Not uncommon.

    • Lockers are becoming less important as we move towards digital texts/resources, etc. for whatever that’s worth.

  • Those who quit or who were given marching orders are heroes. With enough research, you will find out why. Evidently, school districts who signed onto the no child left behind, (common core) for the money, are no longer representing the students or parents. They are data-mining for the govt. Teachers who oppose the common core curriculum are fired or harrassed until they can’t take anymore & quit.
    Teachers have to sign gag orders, are forbidden by contract to discuss the ordeal or to alert the communities for many years. By the time the community finds out, it is too late for the batch of kids who just went through the indoctrinating & data-mining.
    This site has a collection of concerned & angry ex-teachers & parents that will shed light. Be sure to read: Silenced no more!

  • Everyone can have there opinions regarding SHUSD good and bad. Bottom line we need to come together as a community and support our schools. There is always someone who doesn’t like someone else. Get over it. SHUSD is a small district with a lot of schools to watch over. Look at all the new construction upgrades our schools have gotten. Yes teachers are hard to find. Pay determines on how much a district gets. This is based upon enrollment, and how much we get from taxes. Yes taxes. Before you start bashing Catherine and the board do your homework. Don’t base it on hear say.

  • Naturally, in Calif. it’s titled differently. “California is part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium that is developing online tests in math and language based on the Common Core.” Jerry Brown spent a cool Billion ($200.00 per kid) to collect the data that will be used against them in their adult years.

  • Californians united against common core.

  • Data-mining. Was sold to 3rd parties, but stopped in knowledgeable states who read the fine print.

  • NAACP against common core. WA receiving great support for backing out of cc.

  • What common core is.

    (Last one I’ll post, sorry to post so many, but it’s such an important issue).

    Teachers are fired, without pay, if they opt out without official notice.
    Teachers are fired and lose their teaching credentials, if they oppose cc. (Last minute of the naacp video also shares this).

  • Ann needs to leave our superintendent alone. If Ann doesn’t like to way superintendent Scott is performing she should move back to New York or San Francisco. Superintendent Scott is doing a fine job. Those of us who are from here (she is not) remember previous Superintendents and they were much worse. People like Ann are the problem. She was responsible for forcing her way to the old school in Harris against the wish of a old Ranch family who owned the property. She created this issue. She has no right to conduct this silly survey. It does nothing. It is not true that “good” employees were “let” go . Who in the hell is she to say they do or do not deserve to be let go. Our school board did the right thing not to discuss anything with this wack job. Ann is also at least responsible for creating propaganda among parents which probably let to a student mouthing off during graduation embarrassing our school and insulting a professional that has plenty of support from our community. Ann needs another hobby-maybe legal defense

  • The comments requesting that suggesting ‘Ann go back to where she came from’, reminds me so much of the a time when, any questioning of authority, was met with, ‘Go back to where you came from. Of being Black, was met with, ‘Go back to Africa.’ Or being women entering the workforce, was met with: ‘Go back to the kitchen.’
    It is good citizenship to question authority. While Ann may not share the view of those who think everything is fine, she is not alone with her concerns. What is the difficulty at looking at the concerns of a community member with children in our school system? The survey that Ann and others created, was a means to provide a framework for asking questions, and getting a broader look at what they saw as a problem for ALL those in our public schools in Southern Humboldt. One cannot solve any problem unless it is first identified.

  • Didn’t hear Ann mention the students once, or how well the school is performing. If she wants to run the school then she needs to apply for the sup job next time it comes up , or run for a board member seat, pretty simple, any questions

  • Growers are always touting their generousity and community invovlement. With the millions made in and around that school district you would think it would have some sort of private endowment so it’s pay and work environment would be well above the California average. It’s a shame education professionals from far and wide aren’t breaking down their doors trying to get jobs.

  • People quit bosses, not jobs. In every line of work. Sadly, in this case the students are the ones suffering.

    • Catherine Scott is a wonderful boss. There are a lot of reasons to quit working for SHUSD that have nothing to do with the schools or the management of them. For instance, there is little affordable housing in the area, and southern Humboldt isn’t known for being particularly safe either. In addition, teaching is a very hard job and statistically speaking, a large percentage of teachers quit o. Their first four years for reasons that have nothing to do with administration.

  • Here is the SoHum Culture: provincial, xenophobic, hostile, combative and paranoid. In an area where we are purported to be enlightened we are actually quite reactionary and conservative, and suspicious of outsiders. SoHum is like nowhere at all, but with no manners, social conventions, redeeming qualities, law, order or sensibility. It’s a beautiful place that is being destroyed at an incredible pace.

    That’s practically no culture at all folks. And you could replace every SHUSD with a SHCHD, since essentially the same thing happens in your hospital-like facility in Goobsterdam, that is, almost no permanent staff, due to the 60% turnover, and folks leaving like crazy for other places when they discover the repulsive nasty vacuum that is SoHum in general.

    SHUSD also has very poor salaries and an interesting population of parents, as SHCHD has awful working conditions and an interesting population of patients…

    If you don’t grow, just go. Must love meth, cheap beer and whip-its.

    (Constant exposure to drug addicts can wear you down.)

    • You have no children in SHUSD and you were fired from SHCHD. You don’t seem to like living here so why not just move?! You complain about the growers and the drugs yet you know the only thing keeping you here is the marijuana.
      This article has nothing to do with SHCHD yet you’ve once again managed to figure out a way to try and trash it — you truly are a very bitter and disgruntled individual.

  • Just a bunch of crap. Could have been an abused daughter, who’s gay best friend was telling her to repeat “Its not yer fault”; clenching fists saying you “gotta fight back!” Could have been some chick from hoopa, whose brother just mugged a freshman hsu student. Could be a pregnant dope fiend that just shot up because she doesnt know how to cope with reality. Who fuckin knows…..
    My guess: This is an inconsistant drama piece, fabricated to off-balance the hit-piece against a fellow woman. A hit piece supported by statistics. 50% of schools were polled and dont like their new boss. Work sucks… Thats why they pay ya for it. Who knows?.. Maybe this slob of an administrator is on a one woman mission to drain the swamp so to speak. But my question pertains to your lack of questions. What is the graduation rate, attendance levels, relative testing scores, college acceptance rates and overall results the STUDENTS are producing? Those are more crucial stats than how happy employees are and long their tenures are executed.
    You are a joke.

  • Tough working conditions, low pay, and a hardliner employer are indicative of high turnover employee rates, especially if there are better jobs that have better pay and working conditions being available. Usually under these conditions, the employer is usually limited to a much smaller and less qualified worker pool to choose from as well.

    I am also amazed at the number of younger parents, that I have been in recent contact with, that are now home schooling their children.

    Years ago, I had commented to a few teachers about children having to begin algebra as 4th grade math, but I have been out of the elementary school loop for many years, to only recently discover the Common Core teaching method for beginning math.
    I was dumbfounded to watch a video of a teacher taking almost a minute in explaining how to add 9 + 6, with her using 2 steps addition and 1 step subtraction (hope the students know subtraction by then).
    I remember one employer fussing over anything that caused extra key strokes in my computer usage, it will be interesting to see how this type of math translates into the real business world.

    • Agnes J. Johnson was NEVER surveyed or contacted about any surveys from this woman! I run the office, I would know… Catherine has always been on the side of our students, families and employees. Wherever these “employee statistics” came from is made up propaganda as far as I’m concerned.

  • Very involved parent

    Ann, your allegations are false. It is your hostility that is creating a situation that doesn’t even exist. The turnover rate was due in part because the people in charge are actually doing something to make our children’s lives better by getting rid of bad teachers, and in part from retirements, and in part because so hums conditions are hard to live in for many,many reasons.
    To any women who have joined Ann’s EASE hate club……jump ship! Your being led by an evil bitch who has no idea what she’s talking about.
    And the survey??? Pulleeeeease! Anybody with an education knows that the only thing that survey proves is that Ann has no idea how to conduct a survey. All her letter to the editor says to me is ” whack job. Stay away.”
    If Ann’s kids were in public school for the last eight years she would know how much better things are now than they were then. But she’s new to the local schools and just jumps in throwing hate accusations and causing a big stink. To come up with this much bullshit about Ms. Scott, I would guess Ann’s got some major stink in her life that she needs to clean up that she’s avoiding.

  • Big Deal and Very Involved Parent both resort to name-calling against a person who has been brave enough to use her actual name in her letter. Bullies call people names to try to discredit them and scare them. Shame on you!

    • Very involved parent

      Grandma, you don’t know the difference between bullying and truth. Any names I used were words of truth. ACTUAL TRUTH! You obviously don’t know Ann. Ann is an extremely hostile , argumentative bully herself. I am no bully. I am one of the kindest polite individuals in sohum. And I also tell the truth and call bullshit when I see it.

    • You’re right, Grandma, thank you for calling them out!

  • I may not know much, but I know kind and polite when I see it.

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