Teacher Layoffs Threaten Programs That Keep Kids in Neighborhood Schools - Voice of San Diego

Opinion

Teacher Layoffs Threaten Programs That Keep Kids in Neighborhood Schools

If San Diego Unified wants to continue reaping the rewards of International Baccalaureate education, it should respect all of the subject areas that our children learn in this program.

I’m a parent of a sixth grade student at Roosevelt Middle School – a true model of success in the struggle to get parents to start believing in their local public schools again. Roosevelt’s victory at winning over neighborhood parents – who for many years opted out of local schools in favor of home schooling, charter schools or private education – has everything to do with its International Baccalaureate curriculum. Since switching to IB 12 years ago, Roosevelt has experienced a real turnaround, going from a school that many parents had reservations about to a school in which we are proud to say we have our kids enrolled.

Commentary - in-story logoWhen I moved to the neighborhood around Roosevelt 20 years ago, most of my neighbors with kids had grave concerns about our local public schools. Many moved to far-flung suburbs where schools had better test scores. But in the last decade, three of our local elementary schools, San Diego High and Roosevelt Middle all adopted IB programs. IB has a strong track record of improving schools, especially at higher grade levels. Research shows IB students at the middle school level are 34 percent more likely than non-IB students to take at least one Advanced Placement exam in high school and more likely to earn at least one “college-ready” score on a college prep exam.

Due to budget cuts, two very valuable Roosevelt teachers have been given layoff notices, which could lead our school to lose its IB certification. Both are trained International Baccalaureate teachers, but because San Diego Unified does not recognize their subject – physical education – as an IB course, they have not been included in the school district’s layoff exemption for teachers with an IB credential. At a May 1 town hall meeting with Board of Education trustees John Lee Evans and Sharon Whitehurst-Payne and Superintendent Cindy Marten, parents from Roosevelt fought for these two educators. We were also fighting for the future of our school. If these teachers are replaced with teachers who do not have the IB credential, Roosevelt’s IB accreditation will be at risk.

I have seen firsthand the difference in the PE education that my daughter has received at Roosevelt. IB classes encourage reflection, empathy and a worldview that is not a part of many organized sports. These are worthwhile qualities she will use in countless arenas as she grows into adulthood – not just on the playing field.

Not only is IB training specialized, it is also expensive. I am disappointed – both as a parent and a taxpayer – that the district is going to throw away the investment that has been made in these two teachers. The loss of their skills and rapport with our children would have a huge impact on our community.

On a broader level, the IB education that these two teachers exemplify has brought positive changes to a much wider arena than the Roosevelt campus. Hillcrest, North Park and University Heights have become places where parents are eager to send their kids to their local schools because they are confident they will get a quality education. The street I’ve lived on for two decades has been transformed from an eerily kid-free avenue to a vibrant magnet for families with young children, where kids walk to their local schools each day. That is the value of IB and the teachers who make up the backbone of this program.

May 15 is San Diego Unified’s deadline to issue final layoffs for permanent teachers. If San Diego Unified wants to continue reaping the rewards of IB education, it should respect all of the subject areas that our children learn in this program. Every one of them is integral to the success of an IB school.

Elaine Camuso has lived in University Heights since 1996. Her daughter has attended San Diego Unified’s IB schools since kindergarten. Camuso’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

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