Dozens of Tacoma high school students skip out for their teachers

Tacoma News TribuneJune 10, 2014 

Mount Tahoma High School students march for displaced teachers on campus Tuesday afternoon.

DEBBIE CAFAZZO — Staff writer

Students at Mount Tahoma High School walked out of their last hour of classes Tuesday in protest of what they label as unfair teacher reductions at the South Tacoma school.

About 100 students left the building shortly after 1 p.m., carrying signs that read “Save our teachers” and “We love our teachers.” They walked around school grounds and stood on a sidewalk out front waving signs at passing cars.

“We just want to save our teachers,” said junior Anell Cornelio.

School officials said the students who participated will be marked down for having an unexcused absence.

Tacoma Public Schools spokesman Dan Voelpel said teacher moves aren’t hitting Mount Tahoma this year any harder than at other Tacoma high schools. He said a total of four teachers are being displaced from Mount Tahoma and reassigned elsewhere in the district. About 63 are being displaced district-wide.

“It’s unfair to students,” said sophomore Sandra Estrada.

One assistant principal is retiring and another has resigned, according to a personnel report on Thursday’s school board agenda. Two other Mount Tahoma teachers also resigned.

In May, the district notified 18 teachers across the district -- including seven high school teachers -- that their jobs would be gone by September. One full-time and one part-time Mount Tahoma teacher are on that list, according to Thursday’s agenda.

The district blamed the reduction in force on several factors, including declining high school enrollments. The district predicts a decline of 400 high school students in the fall.

This isn’t the first end-of-the-year student action aimed at preserving a school’s status quo. Last month, Stadium High School’s Ars Nova Choir serenaded the school board with a song about money. Choir members and parents argued that reducing choir classes would hamper vocalists’ ability to progress.

Superintendent Carla Santorno told the Stadium group that some cuts in arts instruction will be made this fall due to declining enrollments. She said the district is also undertaking a fresh look at music instruction, with an eye toward creating a more balanced program from school to school.

Mount Tahoma kids said they also plan to take their protest to Thursday’s school board meeting. Several said they have written letters to the board, while others said students are circulating petitions in support of teachers.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635 @DebbieCafazzo

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