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After Uproar, Garfield High School To Be Spared From Teacher Shuffle

Kyle Stokes
Garfield High School students frustrated over the possible transfer of a teacher out of their school testified before Seattle School Board members at a meeting in December.

Garfield High School will apparently not lose a full-time teacher to another short-staffed Seattle school when a new term starts next week, district officials confirmed Monday.

Both principal Ted Howard and a leader of the school's parent-teacher organization said Monday they do not expect district officials will force the school to send five Garfield teachers to another school for one-fifth of the day.

Howard said district officials haven't explicitly told him his teachers won't be leaving,  but with the semester break so close at hand, it seems a plan Garfield PTSA co-president Kirk Wohlers had said was designed to "game and beat the system" has succeeded.

'The Logistics Are Impossible'

Last October, Garfield's student enrollment count fell well short of the district's projections, meaning the building was over-staffed. Under the district's budget procedures, that meant the school's administration and staff had to pick a full-time teacher who would move.

The announcement prompted a student walkout in October and public outcry from parents and even some Garfield staff. Howard said the move would have disrupted class schedules, fouled up college applications and perhaps even jeopardized some students' ability to graduate.

So instead of identifying just one teacher to leave the building, Garfield identified five who would leave for only one class period each.

"The logistics are impossible because you'd have to have a teacher teach four classes at Garfield and then drive to teach one more, maybe at Rainier Beach ... or wherever. That just doesn't make sense," Wohlers said.

Since union rules prevent the district from overruling the school, Wohlers said Garfield's plan forced the district into a corner.

"Really," Wohlers said, "the entire exercise was a bit of a moot point."

Staffing Shuffles Not Unusual

It's common for Seattle Public Schools to shuffle staff between schools to fill holes in under-staffed buildings. Over-staffed schools can keep teachers in place if they have money in their building-level budgets or can raise the money themselves. (Multiple news outlets reported on parents who managed to raise enough to keep a teacher at their West Seattle elementary school in October.)

District officials have said in the past they feel taking a teacher away from Garfield would've been the most equitable option for all schools. Superintendent Larry Nyland has said the entire district is grappling with how to hire the right number of staff members to serve rising enrollment — without also hiring too many teachers.

Howard said he believed the district needs to take a second look at how it matches funding to a school's enrollment. While saying he feels the current system can leave his hands tied in some ways, Howard also acknowledged it also leaves schools with latitude enough to game the system.

"I expect some definite changes in how budgets are released and how they allocate or make changes. I don’t expect any other school to have to go through this," Howard said.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.