Teachers at all three Stamford high schools held Six Is Not the Fix walk-ins this morning in a show of solidarity to push back against schedule changes that would shortchange students.
Superintendent Dr. Tamu Lucero and the Stamford Board of Education have proposed increasing high school teachers’ course load from five to six classes, which will negatively impact teachers’ ability to serve their students. That plan would leave teachers with less time to adequately prepare effective lesson plans, grade students’ work, and provide individualized attention to students.
“With teacher shortages continuing to plague the state, Stamford wants to pile on additional work for educators who are already stretched thin and considering leaving the profession or going to a nearby district with a reasonable schedule and higher pay,” said CEA President Kate Dias.
“We need to work together to recruit and retain the teachers we have,” said Stamford Education Association President John Corcoran. “This proposal would undermine those efforts by overwhelming already overburdened staff.”
Westhill High School visual arts teacher Catie Ramsey explained to the board of education at a recent meeting what it means to be responsible for 150 young people’s education, safety, and emotional well-being.
“We don’t have adequate time to give to the students we have now,” Ramsey said. “Have you considered that adding a sixth period cuts the 35.2 seconds we currently have per student per day to review their work, write feedback on their assignments, enter grades, call their parents, reach out to their counselors, organize materials, prepare documents in Google Classroom, plan club activities, write college recommendation letters, review IEPs, write reports for PPTs, search for grants, post projects on DonorsChoose, and communicate with colleagues to collaborate in our departments—among many other high school teacher related responsibilities—to a mere 18 seconds per student?”
Stamford claims issue is “equity”
Lucero and the board of education are arguing that requiring all high school teachers to teach six classes, rather than being a cost saving measure, would ensure “equity” between elementary and high school educators.
“Equity across grade levels cannot and should not be measured in minutes,” said Stamford High School social studies teacher Jeanne Valentine. “I would not assume an elementary school teacher’s job is the same as mine simply because we are both teachers. This is an apples to oranges comparison.”
Valentine explained that the jobs vary in myriad ways from starting and ending times to class caps to student loads to grading and reporting to responsibilities in and outside the classroom. Even with the prep time high school teachers have now, Valentine said she spends considerable time grading during the evenings, weekends, and on school breaks.
“I teach college-level classes that students receive college credit for, but that’s being compared to instruction in first or fifth grade? Our jobs are different. How we instruct and assess is different. High school teachers should not be pitted against teachers from other grade levels under the guise of equity simply being measured in instructional minutes,” Valentine said.
Westhill High School English teacher Drew Denbaum said that the superintendent’s presentation to the board on teachers’ workload only addressed instructional time, as if that was all educators are responsible for.
“Everyone knows this is really about money, not equity,” Denbaum said. “As ESSER funds dry up, the budget is being squeezed. An ever-increasing influx of students puts more and more pressure on the administration. The solution, apparently, is to reduce the number of teachers in the district through attrition, burnout, and mass exodus, despite the fact that no other surrounding district imposes a sixth class on high school teachers.”
“I don’t see how limiting high school teachers’ non-instructional time is a solution for elementary school teachers. It seems like elementary school teachers need more time,” Westhill English teacher Jacyln Servillo said. “I generally love working at Westhill, but this working conditions change is unreasonable if anyone expects to have a work-life balance and would have me strongly reconsider working in this district.”
“The amount of time I have spent working outside of my contract for my students, for my school, and for this district is actually incalculable,” said Academy of Information and Technology social studies teacher Michelle Pusser. The nearly 30-year teaching veteran told the board she is tired of being made to feel undervalued and unappreciated by the board and administration.
She continued, “You may see just one teacher speaking before you, but I am just the tip of the iceberg. I am not just one teacher. I am every teacher in this district who feels we’re being told we’re not good enough and we don’t work enough.”
“I am so proud of all our members who are bringing this issue to the forefront, advocating for their students, and letting everyone know the negative ramifications of adding a sixth class,” said Corcoran. “We will continue to fight for what’s best for our students and our public schools.”