SEATTLE - Hundreds of Garfield High School students and teachers walked out of class Thursday afternoon to protest the potential removal of a teacher from their staff.
Seattle Public Schools are currently working with six schools to “surplus” a teacher, moving him or her from a campus where there are fewer students to a campus where there are more than expected.
Garfield is the only high school on the list and the only school to report a discrepancy in student enrollment numbers. District staff members are currently reviewing this discrepancy to determine if a teacher will have to move.
The decision will be made by Monday. A district spokesperson, Stacy Howard, told KIRO 7 minutes before the walkout that they will not pull a teacher from a core subject.
The possibility of losing a math, English or history teacher, for example, concerned many students who worried they would lose credit for the nine weeks already spent in the class. That loss of credit would be detrimental to those trying to graduate on time.
“If we had to potentially move a teacher, then that would be a credit loss. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid,” said Sarah Pritchett, the executive director of Seattle Public Schools’ central region.
When KIRO 7 told protestors like Olivia Devesci, a Garfield High School student, that core teachers can stay, she said, “That would be an improvement. However, we don’t think that we should be forced to remove any teacher from our school, when we’re already so over-enrolled.”
She and many others believe Garfield has actually exceeded enrollment projections and that the district count is off.
Pritchett said while the decision to move a teacher will happen by Monday, the move may not happen immediately. The school would choose which teacher to surplus; then, the district would need to find that teacher another position. The teacher would not lose his or her job. If the move comes too late in the semester, or if another position cannot be found immediately, she said they would try to make the transition at semester’s end instead.
Gatewood Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association raised $90,000 earlier this school year to save one of its teachers from having to move to another school.
Garfield High School’s PTSA President, Kirk Wohlers, told KIRO 7 the group cannot raise the needed $92,000 by the end of the week.
“We go to public school because the teachers are paid for. So to ask the PTSA to pay for teachers is out of line in our view,” Wohlers said.
District staff told KIRO 7 they agree it is not recommended for parent groups to raise money for a teacher's salary. But money from the district’s rainy day fund is not allowed to be used toward a teacher's salary.
Some questioned why the district had to make such decisions so late in the semester. Staff told KIRO 7 that Oct. 1 is the date for finalizing enrollment, because students are allowed to transfer through September.