top of page

ERHS is cutting four teachers. What does this mean for our school?


photo by Kenny Eliason

Recently, news of four ERHS teachers being displaced from our school began to spread around our campus and community. This news has caused concern among students, staff, and parents because many of the displaced teachers and the programs they represent are beloved and appreciated by our school community. With the news came the stories of varying accuracies regarding why these displacements were happening. The reasons behind teacher displacement are complex and easy to misinterpret. The goal of this article is to accurately explain why this is happening.


Why are teachers being displaced?

How many teachers we hire at ERHS (and at all LAUSD schools) is based on how many students we will have enrolled next school year. The district says we need a teacher for every 30 students or so. Our feeder schools, Eagle Rock, Dahlia Heights, Delevan Drive, Rockdale, Burbank MS, and Irving MS, and other incoming students with permits determine the number of students we will have. 


Based on a report we receive each year called ECAST, we can determine how many students we will receive from these feeder schools. This year we learned that we will receive approximately 150 fewer new students than our departing senior class. With fewer students, keeping the number of teachers we have right now becomes impossible.


Of course, everyone in our school community would prefer to keep all of our teachers. They are essential assets to student learning and our school culture. Keeping them would also lower our student-to-faculty ratio and allow all students to get more individual attention.


But hiring teachers costs money. LAUSD has a policy where schools must budget for additional teachers, each costing 165,000 dollars per year to hire, regardless of their actual salary. New teachers, for example, are paid around 64,000 dollars per year. The leftover costs are used to cover insurance, pensions, and other benefits. So no matter what, each teaching position is quite expensive.


Where does the school get this money? Let’s start with Average Daily Attendance (ADA). Since we will have fewer students next year, our capacity for ADA will also be lower; and since schools are given funding based on ADA, if attendance goes down, so does our funding.


Additionally, in past years, ERHS received large amounts of Title I funding, which is money reserved for lower-income communities. However as Eagle Rock grew to become a more expensive neighborhood to live in, the average income of a student’s family increased. This brings up the average income of students, which leads to our Title I status being lowered.

According to Principal Steinorth, we used to be able to count on receiving more than $750,000 per year in Title 1 funds; now we receive around $500,000, and that amount seems to shrink every year. Another factor affecting displacements is the fact that some teachers were hired using federal emergency funding for COVID, called ESSERS funds. This funding expires this year, further complicating the situation. 


The bottom line is due to many factors, we have fewer students and less money to hire teachers than we’ve had in previous years. This means we have to cut not only teachers but also programs and supplies.


How does the school decide who gets displaced?

So, given all of these factors, our school leaders and administrators have the difficult task of deciding which teachers will be displaced. It’s probably important to mention that being displaced does not mean being fired; all displaced teachers still have a job with the district. The policy that guides these decisions is based on a combination of three main things: seniority, student need/interest, and specialized skills.


Seniority refers to how long a teacher has been with the district or the school. Student need/interest refers to classes that students are required to take or classes that have a high level of student interest. Specialized skills can be explained like this: say you need a Mandarin teacher, but the only teacher qualified to teach Mandarin is someone with low seniority. You also have several Spanish teachers who are more senior. In that case, it’s possible that the Mandarin teacher would be retained and a more senior Spanish teacher might be displaced due to a combination of student need for Mandarin and specialized training. This can also apply to a teacher with lower seniority who has specialized IB training compared to a more senior teacher who does not– in this situation the teacher without training could be cut. These are the types of considerations our administrators must weigh when they make these difficult decisions.


How this affects ERHS

The news of teachers being displaced came as a shock to our campus and has sparked ERHS students to use their voices and right to protest to support the affected teachers. One such student is 10th grader Lianne Dungca, who organized a petition for her teacher and JV basketball coach Ms. Van Ostrand, or Ms. V (as her students call her). “I was upset… and devastated when I found out that she was getting moved,” she recalled. “I don’t want to lose a person that’s important to me and has a big impact on not just me, but everyone else.”


The petition acknowledged the seniority system in place, but emphasized Ms. V’s “unwavering dedication to her students.” The petition ended up having around 200 students who signed it and it was handed to our principal, Mr. Steinorth. Lianne said, “The district has specific rules he has to follow, but it shows the impact of Ms. V being a great teacher at the school.” Currently, Ms. V is looking for new opportunities and has announced that she’s earned a position at East Los Angeles College as their assistant women’s basketball coach.


Another teacher being affected by all of this is music teacher Dr. Gindin, who teaches orchestra and choir. Some students and parents were concerned that her displacement would affect these programs. Initially, Dr. Gindin was hoping to be able to stay by using Proposition 28 funding. Proposition 28 provides money to schools for arts education, and ERHS has this kind of funding. According to Arts Department Chair, Mr. Oliveros, “We receive $307,047 from this proposition: 20% for supplies and 80% for teachers.” After deducting 20% for supplies, it seems we have plenty of money with $245,637.60 to use for teachers.


However, much of that funding has been reserved for the film and video production teacher, Mr. Walters. And since the funding is categorical, meaning parts of funding must be spent for specific things, it must be spent on both credentialed teachers and classified employees like teacher assistants. This leaves only just enough “credentialed-teacher money” for Mr. Walters.


According to Oliveros, we will use the classified teacher funding next year to keep Mr. Mark Trejo, our afterschool Latin Jazz program lead, and hire a string assistant and choir assistant. These assistants, who are paid less than fully credentialed teachers, will help supervise orchestra and choir in dedicated after-school programs. The orchestra program will be assimilated into our other music teacher, Ms. Silverman’s, classes. The choir program will be brought into musical theater and the existing choir club, Noteworthy, which has already held multiple performances this year. For current and future Diploma Programme students, DP Music will remain at the school and AP Music Theory will be an option in the future. So the good news is that despite the cuts, these important programs will survive.


Conclusion

Of course, all of this does raise questions about the future of teacher and program retention at ERHS. How do we maintain these important priorities in the face of unpredictable funding and budget cuts? Plenty of schools survive without Title I funding, but these schools rely on outside grants and community-based funding. This leads to the question “Why haven’t we already started doing this at ERHS?” Actually, we have. Eagle Endeavors is a non-profit organization run by local community members that conducts fundraising and grant-writing efforts for school programs and supplies and is looking toward ways to support teacher salaries.


Losing teachers is never pleasant. We will miss Ms. Van Ostrand, Dr. Gindin, and all of the teachers who are being displaced due to fewer students and budget cuts. It is right to be concerned about this, and it is admirable that students and families have spoken up on behalf of these valued teachers and programs. We should also remember that the school’s leadership has little power to change what is happening; they have to work within the rules set by the district, state, and federal government. The best way for us to spark change within our Eagle Rock community is to speak up and vote for local representatives willing to support funding for our schools that are increasingly being affected by unpredictable budget cuts, fluctuating student populations, and gentrification.

1,221 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All

3 則留言


Very well written. This clearly explains how funding in education works to those who are not in education.

Ms. V is amazing and will be a gift where ever she goes, but we will miss her at ERHS.

按讚
回覆

❤️

按讚

Reda Rountree
Reda Rountree
6月04日

I’m both proud and impressed by the thoroughness of this article. I have faith in you guys to continue to instigate real change at our school, and then wherever you go when you graduate.

按讚
bottom of page