Teachers missing from equation in classrooms

The Southerner

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By Konadu Amoakuh

Eight weeks into the school year, juniors Jori Shorts and Laura Sommerville were on their seventh substitute in their Math III class.

With midsemester quickly approaching, three Math III classes, three Math III support classes and three special-education classes still did not have permanent or even long-term teachers. The students in some of these classes have already had multiple substitutes.

Shorts said that out of the seven substitutes her math class has had, only one had a math background.

“The one thing that’s different for APS is that all of our substitutes are certified teachers, but you may have a substitute who doesn’t have math credentials subbing for a math class,” said Keith Bromery, director of APS media relations.

The Math III classes were without textbooks before October. Their only resources were math worksheets. Without textbooks and without a long-term teacher, Shorts said the students in her class are not learning the math concepts that her friends in other Math III classes with permanent teachers are learning.

Shorts said her class has not taken any quizzes or tests or had any homework, and she said that, on several occasions, the work they have been assigned has had nothing to do with math.

“Right before the GGT writing test, we had a substitute that used to be a language-arts teacher, so she helped us prepare for that [subject],” Sommerville said.
While the students in this math class do worksheets or work for other subjects, other Math III classes are preparing for midterms and the Georgia High School Graduation Test, Principal Vincent Murray said.

The fact that several classes still don’t have permanent teachers could greatly affect the students in these classes in the long run. These students are not learning essential concepts in the core curriculum, which could affect their standardized test scores, Murray said.

Shorts said when she attempted to switch out of the math class, she was told that the other classes were overcrowded and that there was nothing that could be done.

“Substitutes have been just coming in and giving us stuff to review for the GGT, but we don’t know what they’re talking about,” Shorts said.

Murray said many students have complained about the lack of a permanent teacher in the classroom, and parents and students have expressed concerns about how the students will be graded for midsemester and about how they will catch up to the other classes. He said the main concern is whether the students will be able to master the curriculum and the content for midterm tests and the GGT. He has recommended multiple teachers as candidates to be hired as math and special-education teachers.

“Typically what I do is when I find eligible candidates I interview the candidates first with the department head, and I let them see if that person is capable and see if that person would be ‘a good fit for Grady,’” Murray said. “After I interview them I send that candidate’s name in to human resources.”

Math chair Ebony Anderson-Johnson said that as the department chair, she serves as the liaison between the principal, the central office and the math department.

“We’ve recommended several teachers for hire,” Anderson-Johnson said. “For some reason their paperwork wasn’t processed or the teachers took another job because of the delay.”

Murray said human resources needs to secure all of the applicants’ documents as soon as they apply.

“Human resources should be able to process a person as soon as a recommendation is made,” he said. “It shouldn’t take two to four to eight weeks for it to happen.”

Grady parent Wiley Sommerville, is a parent-business representative on the local school council, and has expressed concerns about the situation to the administration. Sommerville said the school council discussed the overcrowding at Grady and the lack of teachers on campus at their last meeting in September. As a result, the council sent letters to the downtown APS office, and Sommerville said if the officials who received the letters do not respond, they will escalate their requests to higher-ranking authorities within APS.

“It doesn’t seem fair to kids that are stuck in those classes to not have permanent teachers,” Sommerville said.

The council appreciated that the school is trying to hire teachers, Sommerville said. Their primary concern, however, is that the school isn’t getting enough support from APS.

“HR has to do its due diligence to make sure that when they hire a person that everything they have on that person is true and correct,” APS director of media relations Keith Bromery said.

Murray said the reason some classes still do not have teachers is because of the hiring process. Human resources has to verify an applicant’s credentials and qualifications before the applicant can become an APS teacher, but the process often takes too long, Murray said.

“The only thing I can tell you is that I’ve made recommendation after recommendation,” Murray said.

Some of these recommended applicants have gotten so frustrated by delays in the APS hiring process that they have decided to go to other districts instead, Murray said. He said he has lost about four or five teachers because it took so long for them to be considered for a position.

Bromery said the process ranges from one week to a month, but Murray said it has taken longer.

“In fact, we started hiring them way back in June,” Murray said. “In June, I had two great teachers who went to other districts because of the fact that Atlanta [Public Schools] was not being expeditious enough in getting them cleared for employment, but that tells you something: if they were cleared with another district, they should’ve been cleared with Atlanta [Public Schools], too.”

Bromery said the APS hiring process is effective.

“You don’t want to end up hiring somebody and then essentially firing them because their information wasn’t correct,” he said.

Anderson-Johnson said the reason for the delay may be because math teachers are currently in high demand. Bromery confirmed that math and science positions are getting harder to fill, and Murray said the delay could also be because of the leadership transition that the district is undergoing.

Murray said when the new math teacher is eventually hired, the teacher will have three Math III classes and three math support classes. When the new Program for Exceptional Children teachers join the staff, they will be assigned to core classes where they are needed.

The school is missing a social science, a science and a math PEC teacher. Murray said Grady uses an inclusion model, so those students are assigned to a content teacher, but they are not getting the one-on-one attention that they would receive if they had a PEC teacher.

Murray said he is looking for an experienced candidate to fill the math position because the students are so far behind. He said when the math classes do get a teacher, he is going to ask that person to do tutorials with the classes three times a week so they can cover the entire curriculum in the shortened time frame.
Murray is on his fifth recommendation to fill the math position.  He said the candidate hasn’t completed the process, but she was previously a teacher with APS, so he hopes that she will be cleared by mid-October.

Bromery said the process for hiring a teacher who previously worked for APS would in fact be shorter because the teacher would already be vetted.

“It [the APS hiring process] has been consistent throughout,” Bromery said. “We haven’t changed the process.”

But Murray said it hasn’t always taken this long to hire candidates.

“I don’t care for the process APS is  using right now,” Murray said.


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