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Students say staffing doesnt add up
M-P students watching TV in math class while district tries to hire teachers
MARYSVILLE A dearth of math teachers has some students fuming, as their homework is piling up and they sit in class watching television.
A trio of students and parents vented their frustration to the Marysville School Board on Oct. 1, when Marysville-Pilchuck sophomore Rebecca Stevens said that for the first month of classes she has had nothing but substitute teachers who arent qualified and who repeat themselves a lot.
What homework has been assigned is piling up and doesnt get corrected and sent back to students, she added. On the rare occasions the work does get checked, its because another calculus teacher volunteers to do the work during his planning period.
All of our papers are piling up because no ones there to correct them, Stevens told the board. It makes me feel pretty upset because the school district wasnt prepared.
Her mother Elvira said she didnt know about the problems that have plagued the new Bio-Med Academy at M-P until she visited her daughters classroom earlier this year.
When we went to the open house there were piles of papers there, Stevens said.
Lisa Erdmann is the mother of another 15-year-old in the same class, and she was shocked to hear that there were only three math teachers spread over what would be classes of 30 students a piece that are normally taught by five teachers. While she conceded that the district might have to spread students out in larger classes as a temporary measure, she was chagrined to learn that the district only started looking for more math teachers two weeks ago. School started on Sept. 4.
She said she called M-P principal Tracy Suchan Toothaker but did not get a call back. Toothaker did not return calls from this paper.
Superintendent Larry Nyland said the district simply got caught short handed after a long-time teacher left the district with little notice, and has had a couple of new-hires either back out of agreements or just quit. There is increased competition for math and science teachers, especially as school districts prepare to increase their emphasis on those subjects to meet requirements for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.
He said it was frustrating because the day after Rebeccas testimony Nyland learned that yet another newly-hired math teacher for the Bio-Med school had abruptly left. Adding to the districts troubles is the complicated mechanism for hiring and laying teachers off. The district must inform teachers by mid-May of spring whether they will have a job the next fall, and since funding is based on student headcount a district has to guess a half-year in advance how many teachers to hire.
If they commit to too many they will be on the hook for their salary, if they dont hire enough the classes will suffer. It hasnt helped that the Marysville School District suffered a whipsaw of enrollment figures this fall. At first it looked like the 11,700-student district would be down by about 130 students, and then in early October the district was up by 270. Each student brings about $5,000 of state money on average, so the count is important.
District human resources director Terry Brandon said his staff was working diligently all summer to hire qualified teachers and he told the school board that the market was just too tight. In fact, there are so few math and science teachers available he feared some districts might compromise their standards when filling positions.
I dont think thats the route we want to go, Brandon said.
For Rebecca Stevens, her plans to be a veterinarian someday arent going anywhere when she is sitting in her Integrated Math III class, watching TV for yet another day. She has a new teacher but he quit for health reasons last week, leaving her frustrated.