Here we are, three-and-a-half weeks into the school year and there are high school students enrolled in classes without a teacher. Not just any classes...the critical core classes of math and English. At Galena High School, students have been forced into the library and asked to do the credit recovery program of Edgenuity until teachers can be found. There are so many problems with this scenario, but to add further insult to injury, parents have yet to be formally notified by the school that their student has no teacher.
Students Forced To Do Edgenuity Until a Teacher is Hired
After a brutal year of online learning, high schoolers were ready to ditch the computer and get back into class with a licensed teacher. When a Galena High School freshman student showed up to his English class and found he wouldn’t have a teacher he was frustrated. “It is so dumb that we have to go in and sit with the librarian and do Edgenuity. It’s boring and I’m learning nothing. It isn’t fair, because most of my friends do have teachers and I just happened to be put in the class that doesn’t have a teacher.” A mom of a Galena High School student who doesn’t have a math teacher said, “This is unacceptable. I have tried to work with counselors to get him into a class with an actual teacher, but they are all too full. There is nothing they can do for us. Meanwhile, my son has to try and teach himself math using Edgenuity, which is a horrible program. We are beyond frustrated.”
In reading the District’s definition for Edgenuity - it is an online option for students who need to recover credit(s) or get credits in courses outside of their standard schedule. This WCSD Edgenuity contract indicates that no student can be enrolled in Edgenuity without parent consent. Finally, according to the Edgenuity Policy, Edgenuity courses may not be accepted by some colleges and universities. When we inquired with a Galena High School counselor about this issue, she responded, “The Edgenuity option was initiated to have some consistency in the programming since there have been subs in the classes and at least with Edgenuity, students would have access to standards and could begin a temporary academic path.” Although Edgenuity seems to be a short-term strategy to fill time until a teacher is hired, it is clear that this is grossly unfair to a large swath of students. Those without a teacher are being forced to suffer behind their classmates who do have a teacher. Where is the equity in that?
WCSD Staffing Shortage
WCSD doesn’t just have a limited teaching applicant pool to draw from, it literally has no teaching applicants to draw from. A WCSD high school source told us that they have a teacher shortage in all subjects and positions. The source indicated it has nothing to do with allocations, but the plain fact that there are no applicants for their open positions. This source indicated other high schools in the district have open positions and that each school is communicating with the district’s human resources department every day to try and find a solution. These administrations realize how hard the situation is and one admin was quoted as saying, “It’s terrible for our students.”
A Galena parent told us their principal is using every strategy to find teachers for his school. He has even taken to using his personal LinkedIn account to try and lure applicants and spends hours every night trying to rectify the situation. Lack of capable and licensed teachers for WCSD is a huge issue facing our schools and students. Perhaps now is an excellent time to revisit teacher salaries. WCSD is one of the lowest paying districts in the nation.
Lack of Communication to Parents
What has been even more frustrating to parents is the lack of communication from the schools. The only reason they know their student doesn’t have a core class teacher is because they were told by the student. No formal communication or plan of action has been given to parents. Even at some back-to-school nights, parents showed up to an empty classroom and wandered around wondering if their student’s schedule was a mistake. No one met with them to discuss the situation.
When questioned about school communication, a Galena mom commented, “The fact that we weren’t alerted as parents that there was no teacher is a huge problem. That is ridiculous. I am just frustrated that now, when we are in high school, when it really counts, we don’t have teachers in our kid’s core classes. We also run the risk when we do get a teacher that they won’t be qualified.”
What Can You Do?
Consider applying for a teaching position within the district. There are many open positions and they will work with you to get licensed. Make sure and contact your school principal to discuss how they will rectify the situation. Email the Board of Trustees and let them know what is happening in your school. Tell them to divert some of the approved district administration funds, the emergency covid funds or the equity and diversity funds to be more competitive in our teacher salaries and recruitment.