Tuesday, 06 June 2023

Markham: Reality in Lakeport Unified isn’t pretty

I have been on one Lakeport Unified School District campus or another every day for over 25 years as a parent, substitute teacher, full-time teacher and daily volunteer.

I have to write in response to the two letters I just read regarding the climate at LUSD from current board members and a citizen. I feel I can speak more authoritatively than any of the last contributors as there have been very few days in the last 25 years that I was not on a campus.

So much of what I read in those two letters sounds fluffy and good. Yes, it sounds good, but the reality of how the district is actually working is not that pretty.

I have seen huge changes in the last two years, most of what I have seen has not been "positive."

I have seen almost no change in the quality of the meals provided for the children delivered from this $4 million kitchen. The students are still being served frozen chicken nuggets, beans from a can warmed up, pre-packaged dinner rolls in cellophane, burritos in cellophane packages and pizza bought from a local store.

It is too bad that the school board thinks the school climate is improved … quite the opposite. If they had come to campus and spent some time talking to teachers, they would have known why there was a mass exit from teaching positions.

Believe me, these teachers did not WANT to leave! Moves to other positions in the district and out of the district completely were to escape the stress of hostile work environments, lack of support from administration and lack of an effective discipline policy. Teachers being hit, kicked, slapped and spit on, called f*****g b**ch, food and class objects thrown at them. When this goes on all year long, this is a hostile work environment. Is this in the best interest of the students?

Restorative justice requires that a student come back to the classroom he has just destroyed by tearing work off the walls, throwing chairs, climbing on cabinets and yelling four letter words at everyone … and then apologizing. Then back to teaching as usual? How safe do you think those other students feel now that that student is back, and how well do you think they will learn after that?

Administration had to hire noncertified people to fill these vacancies because so few certified teachers are available. There are not enough curriculum coaches to meet the needs of these untrained teachers in the classrooms. How well do you suppose these untrained teachers are dealing with these events? Is this really what is in the best interest of the students?

What makes me sad is that the current board and administration are so blind to what is really going on. They don't seem to want to know what the real truth is, otherwise they would come to campus, spend hours to really observe, listen and enact change that would be in the students' best interest. How sad.

Jeannie Markham is a retired Lakeport Unified School District teacher. She lives in Lakeport, Calif.

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