Teachers in the Garfield Heights City School district said during Monday night’s Board of Education meeting that almost a third of the teaching staff, and all five school psychologists, have left the district since the school year ended.
Teachers who spoke out during the meeting said roughly 80 staff have left since that time.
Dawn Majors, a representative of the Garfield Heights Teachers’ Association, read a statement from a middle school teacher who left halfway through the last school year, a decision which she said was due to safety concerns and administrative mismanagement.
“Before this decision, I was so hopeful for this year and the middle schools’ new leadership,” she said. “I truly thought it would make such a positive difference. Little did I know that the school would become less and less safe, as admin did not hold students accountable, blew off teachers’ concerns and dangerous behaviors became more rampant.”
Superintendent Richard Reynolds said during the Board of Education meeting that teachers in exit surveys identified problem areas, which the district is working to address, with some immediate and some longer-term fixes in the works, although he didn’t clarify what specifically would be done.
The district in a statement Tuesday said it’s working multiple avenues to try to recruit staff before the school year begins.
“School safety and security is a top priority in our district, and we have increased security personnel, added metal detectors at the High School and Middle School, and intensified our partnership with Garfield Heights Police Department, among other ways of bolstering these efforts,” spokesperson Jim Crooks said.
“Notwithstanding, our vision to be a premier educational institution recognized throughout the State of Ohio remains unwavering. The fulfillment of this vision, however, requires a true partnership for success with parents, students, staff members, and the community-at-large who desire a school district that is successful academically and in matters of school safety.”
The number of staff that have departed the school district according to the teachers is “not entirely accurate,” Crooks said, but he has not yet responded to a follow-up request for comment on what that number is exactly.
Staff who spoke out said increased incidents of students fighting and several lockdowns from gun-related threats have put them on edge. Meanwhile, they argued, district administration isn’t providing enough support to staff and are failing to hold students accountable for misbehavior.
Two teachers also asked the school board to release them from their contracts, despite submitting their resignation after the July 10 deadline set in Ohio law.
Brianna Peck, a high school science teacher who submitted her resignation after the deadline due to not being offered a job at another school district until after the deadline, said the superintendent denied her resignation.
Peck said she loves her students but has been facing increased pressure at Garfield Heights due to a lack of response from the administration to student misbehavior and an increased workload as teachers try to catch up with issues like student absences made worse after pandemic-related school closures.
“I fear every day that there will be a fight taking place in my classroom after this past year where there were at least three instances of students entering a classroom and starting fights,” Peck said. “In addition, I have cafeteria duty where fights often occur during this past school year, (where) we are no longer provided with the security guard.”
This district’s teachers’ union almost went on strike last fall amid tense contract negotiations. Across the country, schools have reported student misbehavior spiking after the pandemic-related school closures, according to surveys from EdWeek Research Center.
In Akron, teacher concerns about safety almost lead to a strike in January.
The teachers said roughly 40 staff left the school district last summer in between school sessions as well.