A Wichita teacher says he has a simple, no-cost idea for raising teacher morale:
Allow USD 259 teachers to send their child to the district school of their choice – any neighborhood or magnet school – and skip the magnet lottery or special transfer process.
“Teacher morale is down – way down,” Dennis Tabor told Wichita school board members Monday.
“School choice for teachers’ children is just one of many no-cost ideas that would raise teacher morale immediately without causing a financial burden on the district.”
Tabor, a special education teacher at Wilbur Middle School in west Wichita, said preferred placement for teachers’ children should come with some caveats: For one, the student would not be eligible for bus service to the choice school, he said.
Also, he said, special schools such as Levy Special Education Center, Gateway Alternative Program, Chester I. Lewis Academic Learning Center or the East High International Baccalaureate program would be exempt.
Board president Sheril Logan said she’s willing to consider the idea but wants more information about potential consequences. Superintendent John Allison is “already starting to check into it,” she said Tuesday.
Logan’s top concern: avoiding overcrowding at popular neighborhood or magnet schools.
“I would need more information because I don’t have a clue how many people we’re even talking about. … Are we talking about 10 teachers, or are we talking about 2,000 teachers?” Logan said Tuesday.
“It sounds like an easy thing, ‘Just let them go where they want to go.’ But the bottom line is, it also could create some huge problems. We’ve got to let the administration take a look and bring back a proposal.”
Currently, Wichita teachers can enroll their children at the school where they teach, even if they live outside that school’s boundaries. Otherwise, teachers must complete the standard application and lottery process to place their child at a magnet school or request a special transfer to a different neighborhood school.
Preferred placement for teachers’ children could reduce the number of slots available at magnet schools, including waiting-list sites such as Northeast Magnet High School, Allison Traditional Magnet Middle School and Bostic Traditional Magnet Elementary.
Some neighborhood schools, such as Christa McAuliffe Academy in southeast Wichita, also could be a concern because they are nearing capacity, Logan said.
“We don’t want to push class sizes to 35 by allowing kids to come in that wouldn’t have to be there,” she said. “So it couldn’t just be, ‘You can choose anywhere you want to go.’ We’d have to do some looking at it.”
Tabor said placement could be contingent upon space being available at the teacher’s preferred school.
During teacher contract negotiations this year, district and union leaders agreed to form a committee to investigate teacher workload and suggest measures to reduce unnecessary burdens on teachers.
Logan said she’s looking forward to a report from that group in coming months and would consider any suggestion that could boost morale.
“If there are things we can do to help our teachers, this board is extremely open to doing that,” she said.
“The teacher that came to us last night brought us an idea, and that’s good. I’m glad our teachers are doing that,” she said. “What we can do then is we can begin to investigate and see, ‘Would this make a difference?’
“The board, I think, is extremely open to having ideas and suggestions, and we’re not opposed to checking them out. That’s what we ought to do.”