Grosse Pointe faces concerns about teacher exodus, delayed contracts

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Grosse Pointe faces concerns as teacher exodus and contracts are delayed within the Grosse Pointe Public School System

With the imminent school year approaching and negotiations for a new contract at a standstill, the Grosse Pointe Public School System is grappling with a significant departure of teachers and administrators.

During a Grosse Pointe Board of Education meeting held on July 25 at Brownell Middle School in Grosse Pointe Farms, a gathering of teachers, parents and students voiced their worries about the ongoing teacher attrition and the absence of a new contract. This issue emerges at a time when the region is facing a shortage of educators, with many GPPSS teachers opting for positions in neighboring districts that offer improved compensation and a stronger sense of appreciation.

Taryn Loughlin, co-president of the Grosse Pointe Education Association, the teachers’ representative body, expressed concern over the situation. 

“We’re at a point where neighboring districts are settling contracts with substantial pay increases, and we have teachers that are jumping ship,” Loughlin said. “The offers are too good to pass up, in addition to the instability within the GPPSS.”

Around 40 teachers sporting matching red T-shirts and some carrying signs, marched together into the school board meeting. 

Christa Fegan, a Grosse Pointe Shores resident, voiced the anxiety shared by many parents. She said she worries that a lack of teachers at the beginning of the school year could result in long-term substitute teachers taking over classrooms. 

“There’s concern that there won’t be enough teachers for this upcoming school year. Parents have come to me saying their children are worried they’ll have long-term substitute teachers. Positions will be empty, and without a contract, it’ll be hard to attract new teachers,” Loughlin said.

Many homes in Grosse Pointe are displaying this yard sign. Photo: Jenna Hummel

As of the latest update, the number of teachers who have resigned from the district has climbed to approximately 32, Loughlin said. She warned that positions might remain vacant at the start of the year and that the absence of a contract could hinder efforts to attract new teachers.

The departing teachers include seasoned educators with 12-17 years of experience within the GPPSS. Their exit poses a significant loss to the quality and continuity of education in the district.

Beth Pornadi, a mother, math teacher, and business owner of Grosse Pointe Woods echoed her concerns.

“I’ve been a math teacher since 1993 and I feel the ground that I stand on is shaking at a rapid velocity,” Pornadi said. “Our teachers are inspirational and our students are extraordinary. Many of my colleagues have been here for years. I’m heartbroken to see how many of our staff are searching for and finding employment in other districts.”

“How do you expect people to believe in this community and system unless a fair and equitable contract is also made with the teachers? No one stays where they’re not valued. You break their spirit when you do not value them.”

Laura Hull, who had been teaching at Grosse Pointe North High School, highlighted that her decision to leave was bittersweet but financially necessary. She cited stability and security as significant factors in her choice, along with a more appealing salary.

“The district is losing irreplaceable experts and talents,” Hull said.

While the GPPSS recently allocated approximately $50,000 for a branding and marketing campaign in the upcoming fiscal year, critics like Loughlin questioned the wisdom of this expenditure. They argued that, regardless of branding efforts, the most vital asset for the district is the quality of its educators.

Meetings and discussions are ongoing, with the community awaiting a resolution before the commencement of the upcoming school year.

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