Kent parents and students protested outside the school district office Wednesday from 10 a.m. until well after 6 p.m.
They’re worried about the 60 teaching positions that will be eliminated through attrition at the end of this school year, and some are calling for the district’s superintendent to be removed.
“I’m really upset with the direction our district is going. It seems like they’re not supporting our teachers,” said Anna Andreski, a Kent parent.
The KEA, or Kent Education Association, is the union that represents Kent teachers. The group held a meeting with hundreds of teachers Wednesday afternoon, and Superintendent Calvin Watts was on the agenda.
The group said it has “NO CONFIDENCE in the leadership provided to the District by top administrators; THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Kent Education Association hereby calls for the immediate resignations or removal of Superintendent Calvin J Watts and Chief of Human Resources Moriah Martin.”
The vote passed unanimously.
The union doesn’t have the authority to remove administrators from office, but the union’s president says it sending a clear message.
“We want to put the school board on notice that the teachers in this district don’t have confidence in the leadership to fix the budget crisis,” said Christie Padilla, KEA president, over the phone.
Parents and students outside the district office protesting are also concerned that with dozens of positions eliminated, art, music, and language programs will be impacted.
“I can’t stand the thought of that. Because as someone who’s been in music for so long, I really can appreciate how important the arts are,” said Taylor Leniger, a junior at Kent Ridge High School.
The school district was going to eliminate 127 teaching positions. But after overwhelming backlash and packed board meetings with emotional testimony, the district backed off on layoffs and instead will cut 60 teaching jobs through attrition.
“I’m still upset,” Andreski said. “I’m hoping for a new administration.”
“We are protesting the administration because we feel they have not used tax dollars, especially the just-passed levy money appropriately,” said Erika Bilyard, another Kent parent. “We feel the superintendent has not acted with integrity.”
KIRO7 repeatedly asked to speak with the superintendent and address the community’s concerns, but the district would not make him available to speak, and would not make any comments on camera.
In response to the protesters, the school district sent this in a statement:
“What is the district's response to today's demonstration?
We appreciate that the group publicly demonstrating their concerns at the administration center today are cooperative and attentive to the safety of everyone involved. The safety of our administration center staff and community continues to be a priority as the administration center is operating on normal business hours today.”
The district also included this information in the email:
“What programs have been cut for next year?
Master schedules have not yet been created for the 2018-19 school year, while our school leaders may have some preliminary knowledge, nothing is final without FTE allocations.”
A spokeswoman said the district had not determined yet what classes will be impacted by the 60 positions to be eliminated by “natural attrition."
Thirty-seven central administration positions will also be eliminated at the end of the school year.
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