By Paige Wester
Living In The Ledge Staff Reporter
As the school year started in September, concern grew throughout the city of Grand Ledge due to the loss of teachers and the lack of funding from the previous year.
Since last year, 19 teachers in Grand Ledge have left the district and 12 of those teachers retired.
Molly Markel, a Grand Ledge resident and also a parent in the school district, said that her concern for her kids’ proper education is growing more and more.
“I know that my daughter had substitute teachers to start off her sophomore year because there was a shortage of teachers,” said Markel. “It concerns me that I have to question if my children are getting the education they deserve.”
Markel, who has two kids in the Grand Ledge School District, said she and many other parents are desperate to see a change with funding throughout the schools.
Grand Ledge High School. Photo by Paige Wester
With 10 different schools and 5,100 students within the Grand Ledge School District, teachers are in high demand, but with the loss of funds within the district it has caused many teachers to retire due to a lack of pay increases after working at the district for many years.
Grand Ledge Gazette Writer In early November, Grand Ledge teachers reached a tentative agreement as part of an attempt to settle the teachers’ contract situation in Grand Ledge. Parents of the Grand Ledge community and members of other institutions and establishments weigh in on the state of education in Michigan.
In October, several Grand Ledge teachers stood in front of the GLPS Board of Education fighting, pleading, and imploring the Board to reconsider removing “steps” from their contracts. Steps are negotiated incremental pay increases in the union contract based on teacher performance, years of experience and educational levels.
The possible elimination of steps was a major stumbling block in the negotiations between the teachers and the school district. The teachers also expressed concern about the possible elimination of TAs (teacher’s assistants) and the salary levels of incoming teachers.
“I think Grand Ledge schools are the best in Eaton County. My children used to attend another district within the county, and I was less than impressed with their education. Oh, and did I mention I used to work for that district?” said Renae Lugibihl, Grand Ledge parent.
The Michigan Department of Education cites teacher evaluation and pay for performance as closely linked, stating “pay for performance depends, in part, on a teacher’s evaluation which must be tied to student growth.” (cited in their spring 2011 teacher evaluation and pay for performance power point)
“In the last year we were at the other district, one of the children did not learn a thing the last six months we were there. We came to Grand Ledge and ALL of my children are thriving,” said Lugibihl.
“There is something about the support and attitude of people who live and are drawn to the community of Grand Ledge,” said Vene Yates, Grand Ledge citizen.
One thing that the Grand Ledge teachers stressed at GLPS Board of Education meeting in October was that the students are the ones who are truly hurt by the effects of low professional pay. Students miss out on valuable educations because good teachers are leaving the profession.
“I know that part of the new Grand Ledge teachers’ contract was to allow school administration to have more flexibility with classroom sizes. Kids cannot learn and teachers cannot teach with that many kids in a class,” said Lugibihl.
The current job market includes a lack of teachers in fields such as special education, math, science, foreign language and art. These holes are most evident in rural and urban schools in Michigan, says the NEA. (under quick facts)
“Having highly qualified teachers is essential to student success – but who in the future will be lured into a profession with wages that start low and fail to keep pace with comparable careers?,” the NEA asks.
Neither the Grand Ledge teachers nor the GLPS Board of Education were available for comment on the current state of the contract.
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