Jefferson Twp. district dealing with staffing issues early in school year

Some Jefferson Twp. parents and teachers are concerned because the district has started the year struggling to find enough teachers and substitutes after two new principals were hired just days before the school year began.

District officials said they are working to resolve staffing issues to continue educating students.

This news organization interviewed multiple officials and parents about what's happening at Jefferson schools. Here's what they're saying »

Thomas Jennings, new principal of the roughly 145-student grade 7-12 high school, said Tuesday that the school is still trying to hire another three teachers and find subs, meaning sometimes it has teachers covering two classes of 18 or 19 students at once, or covering classes they’re not certified to teach.

“The biggest frustration is understaffing, especially at the junior high / high school,” teachers union President Brittney Fries said. “They are overwhelmed. They’re drowning. They feel like there is no help as they’re covering too many kids, and they’re not getting an education.”

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Longtime Superintendent Richard Gates said in addition to the new principals, the district lost its longtime coordinator for EMIS (the state’s education management information system) and wasn’t able to fill that role until after the school year started. He repeatedly said Tuesday that student schedules have been “a work in progress.”

“I’m an optimistic person. I’d say be patient,” Gates said when asked for a message to concerned families. “We have areas we need to improve, and we acknowledge that. I can’t promise we’re going to be the absolute answer to every parent’s dreams. But we’re working toward that progress.”