GREEN ISLAND, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Parents and teachers plan to gather Thursday night at the Green Island Union Free School District board meeting and demand leaders do something to combat a rising tide of violence between students and a mass exodus of teachers.
“We’ve got kids beating the heck out of each other in the classroom while the teachers are freaking out, totally stressed out, and not able to teach the class,” explains mother of three Lynn Fraim.
In three short months, parents and teachers tell NEWS10 the Green Island Union Free School District has lost more than a dozen teachers — causing huge ripple effects in such a small district. Tanya Harrison is one of those teachers who reached their breaking point after witnessing an increase in student violence and a decrease in support from the administration. She says the exodus goes deeper than the nationwide staff shortage.
“It was chaos in the classrooms. Teachers had no one to go to, nothing to do. The response to any discipline was you call home three times, then you can make a referral, and then if you write a referral, maybe something happens? There’s not a lot of learning going on,” Harrison explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
“This district in the past has made it a practice of not utilizing outside resources, whether it be law enforcement or child protective services or anything. They like to handle things in house, and it’s not effective,” Fraim says.
Green Island PD confirms officers are aware of several recent and violent incidents at the Heatly School; however, a representative was not available for comment. Both Harrison and Fraim hope to get answers at the board of education meeting, otherwise they foresee the teacher loss becoming even more drastic.
“If it’s a matter of money, there’s not much they can do about that because we’re a small district, but if it’s a matter of personal safety and not feeling protected by the administration then I can understand, but we need to do something about it,” Fraim says.
“If we don’t have enough people to teach the students, then I don’t know what happens after that. Does the state come in and take over? Does the school shut down? I may be getting ahead of myself, but that’s certainly the vision we’re worried about,” she goes on to say.
Students want answers too. Seniors recently staged a walkout after learning some of their favorite educators would be leaving them.
“It’s really frustrating because they want to learn. They want their teachers. Honestly, because there was so many teachers leaving, they didn’t have enough people to cover classes. I would be teaching my class and Spanish, the librarian would be covering gym, and some areas were just totally wide open,” Harrison describes.
“I don’t care whose fault it is. I don’t care whose job it is. You’re here for a reason, to educate these kids, and we’re failing. We’re failing them miserably,” Fraim says. “I hope everyone can put aside whatever personal issues there are. I don’t want to hear about he said she said, or you did that or you did this. It should be here’s where we are, here’s how we move forward. Obviously what we’re doing right now isn’t working.”
A statement from Green Island UFSD Superintendent Kimberly Ross reads:
Just like any other district in the country, Heatly isn’t immune to the various issues facing the country’s education system.
Specifically, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges that have affected us all. Common problems facing every educational institution include staffing shortages and heightened emotions as a result of stress related to the ongoing pandemic, both of which are evident at Heatly.
As always, our district is proactive in addressing challenges as they arise. For example, our school leaders meet regularly with students to hear their perspectives and opinions and work toward solutions together.
The district also held a Stakeholder Cafe this past Monday, which was an opportunity for the District to proactively hear from members of the community and gather insight on these specific issues.
Possible solutions to help improve student behavior include the development of various student clubs and initiatives, a new school resource officer and a review of the code of conduct. In addition, the district plans to implement Restorative Practices school-wide, which focus on rebuilding relationships when conflict arises.
The group also discussed methods to continue to actively recruit and retain qualified educators, such as working directly with teacher preparatory programs, a micro-credential incentive program for current staff members and methods to increase the salaries of substitute teachers.
These solutions are the foundation to which the district will continue to build upon as the New Year approaches. The goal of the district is to always listen to the community and work together to improve the learning experience for all our students.