Career Student: Don't Cut Our Teachers

Gabriela Soriano | June 6th, 2019

Career Student: Don't Cut Our Teachers

Education & Youth  |  Op-Ed  |  New Haven Public Schools


Christopher Peak File Photo, with permission from the New Haven Independent. 

The following comes from Gabriela Soriano, a student at Hill Regional Career High School. In the past two weeks, Soriano has been one of several students across New Haven's public school system to speak out and organize against the reassignment of 53 teachers in the district. She is also one of the writers of a similar ask to the Board of Education published earlier this week in the New Haven Independent.

My civics teacher, Mr. Osborne, once taught me that we all have the liberty to exercise our First Amendment rights and to speak about issues regarding our concern for our schools. It is both ironic and fitting that I am now exercising those very rights to defend Mr. Osborne, our school community, and the education of future students.

Within the last week, the administration at Career High School and City Hall have targeted several teachers to be forcibly transferred. This is part of a larger and troubling trend in which City Hall is purging the city of some its best teachers.

The question is: why?

We have all received unclear and uncertain responses from the school about this. According to Career High School administrators, the reason for this decision is due to the low enrollment in their classes. Giving an example, they noted one class where there were allegedly only six students enrolled.

The numbers I've seen tell a different story. The lowest number of students that Mr. Osborne has taught in a single class this year was 12 students in the first semester and 17 in the second semester. The lowest class size for Mr. Brennan this year was 16 students for both semesters.

What’s more, both teachers have also taught multiple classes in which students are enrolled to the maximum capacity. In total, Mr. Osborne has taught 178 students and Mr. Brennan has taught 189 students for the 2018-2019 school year.

These are the facts—plain and simple—so let them be known

On May 31 of this year, New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) Chief Operating Officer Michael Pinto sent out a letter to all of the NHPS teachers. In his letter, Pinto included this question that the district had asked all principals:

“Based on the staffing model what staff could you reduce without impacting the instructional program or affecting the social emotional learning for students.”

The principals were to choose to transfer out teachers in their own schools without affecting these two conditions. But at Career, the school targeted teachers who are beloved by the students, essential to our education, and excellent at what they do.

The loss of these teachers is especially devastating because they taught Advanced Placement (AP) classes and now it is unclear whether AP level classes will even be taught next year. Last year, Career lost its AP Physics and AP Computer Science teachers, and was unable to offer these classes for the 2018-2019 school year. Furthermore, the school will not be able to offer them until other teachers receive certification to teach those two AP classes.

In the same way, if Mr. Osborne and Mr. Brennan leave Career, both AP World History and AP Psychology will not be taught in the following years until other teachers are certified. If Career has not found other staff to teach AP Physics and AP Computer Science, what is there to prove that they will find others to teach AP World History and AP Psychology? In the event that this decision carries out, Career would have lost four AP classes in the past two years.

In a letter from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol Birks to the NHPS families sent out on June 3, she stated that the “Primary focus is to make children and academic achievement our first priorities.”

This simply doesn’t appear to be true. By removing these teachers, Dr. Birks is depriving students of the opportunity to take AP classes.

It is extremely evident that the entire student body genuinely cares about both of these teachers. On Friday May 31, many students at Career were brought to tears when they were notified that their favorite teachers were being transferred out. Personally, Mr. Osborne and Mr. Brennan are two of the only teachers at Career that I genuinely trust and will go to whenever I have a problem or just need to talk.

They really listen to what I have to say and make me feel really special and important, something that no other teacher or adult at Career can ever make me feel. If both of these teachers leave, there will be no one in my entire school where I can go to for guidance and support. I am speaking for all of the students at Career. We all share the same feelings for these two teachers and will be emotionally devastated if they have to leave us.

A school needs to be a safe and nurturing environment for all students. The adults that constitute the staff at Career need to provide the students with the environment that they deserve. Mr. Brennan and Mr. Osborne establish and build the foundation of their trusting relationships from the very beginning when students first enter the school. As the time passes, they build onto these relationships by not only teaching students in a way in which they understand and apply the concepts to their lives, but by also becoming their friend and deeply caring for them.

Their presence can never be replaced by any other teacher at the school. Relationships are formed from the very beginning, not when students are about to graduate high school. One cannot simply expect students to feel safe, secure, and trusted with a teacher that does not care about the students in the way that Mr. Osborne and Mr. Brennan do. Both our beloved history teachers need to stay. Career would not be the same without them.

Many people talk about what is best for students, but rarely does anyone actually ask us—the ones who lives, educations, and futures are at stake.

So, Dr. Birks, please hear us now. Help us. Protect our educations. Do not remove these teachers!