To the Park County Board Of Education,
My name is Gretchen Panicucci. I am the parent of two students and a high school counselor at the South Park schools.
Public speaking and writing can be a difficult thing to do. But there are two things that make it very easy for me right now: my children. There’s no doubt that I wear many, many hats as an employee in this district. But the most important hat I wear is my parent hat. I am a parent first before anything else and I’m speaking to you today as a parent of two students in this District.
I am concerned about the future of my children’s education here at South Park. Every year my husband and I ask ourselves if this is the place that we want to raise our children and every year this question is becoming more and more difficult to answer. We want a quality education for our kids. We want quality educators teaching our kids. We want teachers who our kids can build solid relationships with over the years. We don’t want our kids to worry about who their teachers will be from year to year or if they will even have a teacher. We want educators to call South Park their home not just for one or two years but for the entirety of their careers. Several research studies indicate that students in grade-levels with higher teacher turnover score lower in both ELA and math. My daughter just started 7th grade. In her time at the South Parks schools, since kindergarten, she has had twelve, I kid you not, TWELVE, first-year teachers, teachers brand new to our district, or teachers new to subject areas. I believe, without a doubt, this has negatively impacted her academic achievement.
I understand and support the need to act fiscally responsible. But I need answers. I need answers as to how our district plans on retaining and attracting high quality educators so that MY children do not suffer from the negative impact of teacher turn-over and inexperienced and unlicensed teachers. An article published by the Learning Policy Institute states, “To stem teacher turnover, federal, state, and district policymakers should consider improving the key factors associated with turnover.” Compensation is the first key factor listed.
One of The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz states “do not take things personally.” While I’m going to make my next point personal, please do not view it as an attack but rather a way for you to reflect and empathize. Mr. Torrez, your children attend our schools. If you were to remove your Superintendent hat and simply just be a parent, do you question the quality of your children’s education? Are you concerned that they are being taught by unlicensed teachers? Wouldn’t you want answers? Jan and Kim, rewind several years back when your children attended South Park schools. Given our current situation, as parents, would you wonder if this is what is best for your kids? I’m wondering and I am very concerned.
We are at a critical point in time in shifting the direction of our schools. We have such potential to make South Park Schools the school of choice for so many in our area. In my 13 years here I’ve always felt like we’ve been on the edge of greatness and slowly inching our way to the top. Recently, I feel more like we are teetering, like we are walking a very thin and wobbly tight-rope and any second will fall from our path to greatness and have to settle for mediocrity.
I am asking you as leaders to thoroughly examine the challenges we face as a district in retaining and attracting high quality educators and to develop a comprehensive plan to address this problem. Please be open to ALL possibilities. Take some time to walk in the shoes of our educators, parents, and students to understand all perspectives. Let’s do what we need to do in order to achieve greatness. We clearly have a problem and it needs to be solved.