School districts struggle to staff up statewide

Posted at: 05/15/2014 10:26 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Nearly every county in New Mexico is struggling to fill classrooms with dedicated teachers. Critics say schools and the state are putting too much pressure on staff, and some teachers are saying enough is enough.

Third grade teacher and National Education Association of Bernalillo vice president Michael Chavez says the job itself is something he loves.

“I love working with the students and helping them make gains from coming into where they might be at a certain level in reading and math and then seeing what we can do by the end of the year,” Chavez said.

But ask him how he feels about a series of changes made this year, including more tests, different teacher evaluations and new mandatory programs like Teachscape, and the tone changes.

“We didn't have any grounded information… it was always something different we had to adjust to,” Chavez said.

NEA Bernalillo President Jennifer Trujillo says across the state of New Mexico, many teachers have left their districts because of the stress. She says many were teachers with decades of classroom time, and lessons they could have passed on to new educators. Instead, they’ve moved on.

“Retired or they're looking for other jobs, or going back to school,” Trujillo said.

This year, teachers have petitioned for everything from pay raises to a voice in policymaking, but many are still unsatisfied, and Trujillo says many people she knows plan to make this school year their last.

Chavez says teachers want more of a voice.

“Listen to the stakeholders - which are the teachers. Listen to what teachers have to give, and feedback - cause that's the way its gonna work. Everyone should be together in this process,” he said.

The New Mexico Public Education Department says it has listened to teachers, even forming committees with them for insight, but activists say that’s not enough.

Individual school districts are working on their own plans to staff up for the next school year.