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“Where is my teacher?” » Students and Parents Want to Know Why WCCUSD Hasn’t Filled Dozens of Teaching Vacancies

On Wednesday, parents protested and teachers rallied against the West Contra Costa Unified School District, expressing frustration with how the teacher shortage is being handled and communicated to the community.

A few dozen parents, children and teachers gathered at Memorial Park in Richmond, directly across from WCCUSD headquarters, to demand answers after a shortage of teachers forced some schools to combine classes, hire temporary replacements or displace teachers to make up for staffing shortages.

The demonstrators carried signs reading: “Let’s fight for what is right”, “Help us” and “Where is my teacher? / Donde esta mi maestro?” »

Parents and teachers protesting WCCUSD’s handling of a teacher shortage that left some classes without a permanent teacher, a month into the school year. (Cara Nixon)

“I’m just really disappointed with the lack of communication from the district,” said Annette Gregg, parent of a third-grade student at Stewart Elementary in Pinole. “We didn’t even find out that our kids didn’t have teachers until we got to the first day of school.”

Gregg’s daughter said she was “nervous” for the school year because her parents were transferring her to a new school because she didn’t have a regular teacher at Stewart.

Some students held signs that read “Keep Mrs. Baker,” referring to fourth-grade teacher Cathy Baker, who has taught at WCCUSD for nine years and has been at Ellerhorst for four. She said she is transferring to Peres K-8 due to a lack of teachers there.

“I moved to Ellerhorst because I know there are students who don’t have black teachers, especially black students, and I moved to a community similar to the one I grew up in and I wanted to have a positive impact on my students of color, as well as my students who come from communities different from mine,” said Baker, who is black.

William Beh, a parent of two students at Ohlone Elementary School, said the situation was affecting many in the community.

“Children are crying, some children are even saying, ‘We don’t want to go back to school,'” Beh said. “One of the parents, when she talked about it, I can see tears in her eyes.”

Shallon Santiago, a parent of two in Stewart, helped organize the event to unify parents in hopes it would motivate the district to be more responsive to community concerns.

“We are aware of and have heard the concerns of our parents and staff and understand the frustration regarding our recruitment and retention efforts,” the district said in a written statement Wednesday. “There is a shortage of teachers across the state and school districts, especially districts like ours, are managing as best they can with a small group of clearly credentialed teachers across the state and the WCCUSD is no exception. However, we remain committed to providing students with high-quality learning experiences in every classroom in our district.

WCCUSD Protest
Zachary Wittman, a fifth-grade student at Ellerhorst Elementary School in Pinole, holds a sign reading “Let’s Fight For What’s Right” during a protest against WCCUSD on Wednesday. (Cara Nixon)

Protesters took their concerns directly to the school board on Wednesday evening, joining staff members at a rally outside the meeting organized by United Teachers of Richmond. Many then spoke during the public comment period about the district’s poor response to the teacher shortage.

John Zabala, WCCUSD school psychologist and UTR president, noted the district is still short of many teachers and paraprofessionals, despite $128 billion in public funding to school districts in July, to counter inflation and shortages. continues to teachers.

“I know the council staff and the superintendent [Kenneth “Chris”] Hurt that you are also driven by the same spirit of public service,” Zabala said. “I believe your intentions are the best for our students. But without human resources, we won’t accomplish anything.

Later, Hurst acknowledged the personnel issues and the district’s obligation to do something about it.

“So we hear you and we understand that we have this commitment to solving all of these issues,” he said.

WCCUSD Protest
At Memorial Park in Richmond, parents and students staged a protest against WCCUSD’s handling of the continued teacher shortage. (Cara Nixon)

Human resources director Sylvia Greenwood noted that 200 teachers resigned at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, including 55 retirements. The district now has 24 elementary school teacher vacancies, 16 secondary school teacher vacancies, and three counselor vacancies.

Associate Superintendent LaResha Martin said the district supports its students, staff and parents in several ways, including having counselors check in with students; provide opportunities for parents and new teachers to meet; and offering $3,000 to teachers who have been asked to transfer schools.

Board chairman Otheree Christian, who works for the Oakland Unified School District, said there is a teacher shortage across the Bay Area, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. .

“Needs weren’t being taken care of before we entered the pandemic,” Christian said. “The pandemic has just opened it up and made it even bigger.”

This story has been updated to correct the number of vacancies for elementary school teachers.

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