School board meeting gets heated after upset parents demand answers about teacher reassignments

SEATTLE -- Dozens of upset Seattle parents showed up to Wednesday’s school board meeting demanding answers about the upcoming teacher adjustments.

Parents were not allowed to speak leading to a heated exchange, school board members ended up leaving the room for a short time.

Meanwhile earlier in the day, the district held a press conference explaining the restructuring -- saying no teachers will be laid off, just reassigned.

“It's a challenging situation,” Seattle Public Schools spokesperson Jacque Coe said.

The district says a lack of state money coupled with a significant drop in expected enrollment is costing them $4 million.

“Last year there were 350 students who opted out to surrounding districts this year that number is up to a 1,000, so that's 675 students,” Associate Superintendent Dr. Lester Herndon Jr. said.

With 675 fewer students than expected, the district says they have no choice but to move teachers around.

“It's transferring staff, no one is losing their job,” Coe said.

But the move means open positions will not be filled because many teachers would be reassigned to those positions. So teachers may not be laid off but positions will be cut.

“They are saying it’s not cuts but allocations, but it’s actually cuts at our school,” parent Chandra Hampson said.

Sandpoint Elementary parent Chandra Hampson worries about how the teacher shuffle will affect her kindergartener.

“Either way she will get a larger class and then some kindergarteners will be switching teachers,” Hampson said.

Parents are not the only ones frustrated with the district’s decision, some state lawmakers are asking the administrators to postpone the changes.

“There is a real lack of transparency in moving teachers and cutting them from classrooms after the school year has begun,” Rep. Gerry Pollet said.

Pollet says there may be other options like dipping into the rainy day fund.

“To dip into reserves would not be fiscally responsible that would be financially irresponsible,” Coe said.

But some believe the district could have avoided the drama to begin with.

“They need to do a better job of projecting enrollment the way to do that is by reaching out and communicating with the schools individually with the communities,” Hampson said.

The district says there are many reasons why parents opt their kids out of schools. But they say the teacher strike at the beginning of the school year could have played a role.