Richland One reassigns teachers to new schools prior to fall break, infuriating families

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Published: Oct. 18, 2023 at 11:44 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Richland School District One is reassigning at least eight teachers to different schools at the end of the district’s first grading period, infuriating impacted families.

District officials say eight or nine teachers will be leaving their classrooms and their students behind, and moving to other district schools.

While the exact dates could shift, the plan is for the reassignments to take effect at some point next week, when students return from their fall break.

The state’s ninth-largest district has not yet provided a complete list of impacted schools, but district officials confirmed that Satchel Ford Elementary, Brennen Elementary, Logan Elementary, and Hyatt Park all may be included.

Several sources tell WIS that teachers are being transferred from Satchel Ford and Brennen to Burton-Pack Elementary.

“This is unfortunate that we have to do this, but we have been doing that and we’ve got to make those changes,” Richland One Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon said in a Thursday evening interview.

Witherspoon said this is something that has been done for decades, usually around this time in the school year when things have settled and there is a clearer picture of student-teacher ratios.

Satchel Ford fourth-grader Maddy Kasperski was heartbroken after she learned that her beloved teacher will be leaving next week.

“This is my teacher, and she just makes learning fun,” she said. “I’m just really disappointed about this.”

Some parents expressed concerns about the abrupt nature of the move.

“They were treated like criminals like they did something wrong, and they haven’t done anything wrong,” Guen Kasperski, Maddy’s mother, said. “So it’s confusing why anybody would think that this is acceptable or a good idea because what teacher then wants to work for a school district that’s going to treat them that way?”

In some cases, teachers did not even get to say goodbye to their students.

While he did not provide specifics about how it would happen, Witherspoon said children would be given that opportunity at the schools that are losing a teacher.

“That’s in process,” he said.

When pressed for clarification, the superintendent said, “They will have – I said next week but we have next week so that will be able to happen.”

The district says staff reassignments are not uncommon, and schools have to plan for adjustments for things like retirements, resignations, and maternity leave.

Guen Kasperski said this situation is much different.

“In that instance, they know it’s going to happen and they plan for it and they’re able to prepare their students for the fact that they’re going to be adjusting to having another teacher come in and take over,” she said. “This was just, it’s like they just yanked their teachers away with no warning, no communication to anyone.”

In a statement, Richland One spokesperson Karen York said, “The teacher reassignments that we are making are due to overstaffing based upon student-teacher ratios. The adjustments are being made after the 45th day of school when we have a clearer picture of student enrollment at each of our schools.”

WIS asked Witherspoon why the Richland One did not make this decision on day 10 as opposed to day 45, given that these types of numbers are consistently tracked by districts.

“Day 10 we’re still receiving students,” he said. “There’s still movement, there’s still things that happen on day 10. So we try to wait until a point where things are settled if you will. Because what you wouldn’t want to do on day 10 is make that move and then make a different move if on day 15, day 20, and so forth, that there is a different scenario.”

Maddy Kasperski, who said she cried throughout the night on Wednesday when she received the news, said she believes this is not fair to schools that are losing teachers.

“If something’s already broken, you can’t fix it by breaking another thing because that’s being selfish, that’s being really selfish,” she said.

Richland One’s hiring website currently lists 148 teacher vacancies for elementary, middle, and high schools.

Some parents think this sudden move could worsen the teacher shortage in the district.

When asked about this, Witherspoon said the district continues to look to recruit and retain teachers.

The 2022-2023 state report for Burton-Pack shows its student-to-teacher ratio last year was 24 to 1.

The state-mandated cap for student-to-teacher ratio is 28 to 1.

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