Teachers and parents of students at Everett Middle School are speaking out against an administration they say is unsupportive of children and failing to communicate about serious school issues. Several teachers say they were attacked by students and punished when they asked for help to remedy the situation.
Parent Dheyanira Calahorrano said his seventh grade son reported doing nothing in several classes often occupied by substitute teachers. For months, physical education, for example, had only involved students locked in the cafeteria with a video to watch, she said.
Due to poor supervision or unhired substitutes, teachers and parents say students wander the halls and in and out of other classrooms, and fights break out frequently – between students and on multiple occasions. , involving teachers. Calahorrano said the administration often fails to notify him of violent incidents.
“The science teacher was away for four months and I didn’t even know it,” she said. “The principal never told us that.” It turned out that the same thing was happening in three of her son’s other classes. Her bored son complained and demanded to be transferred to a better school.
More than academics, Olga Reyes said she was worried about the safety of her two sixth-graders when she sent them to Everett. With reports of violence and oversized classrooms due to missing teachers, Reyes said she was scared and so were her children.
“In fact, my daughter said to me yesterday, ‘Mami, I left and the substitute didn’t notice,'” Reyes said in Spanish. “It worries me as a mother, because I expect my children to be in class to learn and not try to get out of class, right?”
Reyes said four of his children’s teachers left this school year and his children’s friends are transferring to other schools.
Reyes said she didn’t want to drop out of school or send her children across town – she just wanted them to have a safe space and a decent education. And as a monolingual Spanish speaker, she wants to be able to communicate with the administration.
Everett is 70% Latino, with an immersion program welcoming many non-English speakers – but Reyes said the principal, Esther Fensel, does not speak Spanish.
Consequently, Reyes said there were no parent conferences to discuss school issues with the principal, causing frustration among Latino families. Most of the teachers don’t speak Spanish either, so Calahorrano said his son ends up translating what the teacher is saying to his Spanish-speaking friend.
Reyes and Calahorrano said they contacted the district and received minimal responses, if any.
It’s not just parents who are fed up: Music teacher Ethan Walker quit this week. He started in February, taking over for a month off.
He said he was beaten by students outside his classes, prompting him to wear a padded bike suit to work. He also said he received a gun threat and was followed off campus by the same student who threatened him.
“The whole school is on a de-escalation policy, so no matter what, none of the kids are yelled at or told they absolutely have to or they’ll be suspended,” Walker said.
Although Walker said he agreed with the restorative justice policy in principle, he said that when situations got violent or dangerous, more was needed.
But the administration has instead often tried to blame him, Walker said. And instead of reporting the assaults or allowing him to contact the police, “They completely covered it up,” Walker said, and avoided reporting the assault as the reason for a student’s temporary suspension.
Walker said he was prohibited from reporting violent incidents to the police.
Behavioral issues and a lack of support made it almost impossible for him to teach effectively, particularly at first when he was not allowed to close his classroom door due to Covid-19 concerns. One of the students who assaulted him was an unknown student from another class, Walker said.
After two months on the job, taking up to one day off a week for PTSD and anxiety, Walker quit on Tuesday. “I’m literally running towards my next job,” he wrote in an email to members of the Everett community.
On Wednesday, Principal Fensel announced her resignation at the end of the semester. When Mission Local called the school’s main line on Thursday, the person who answered refused to reach us and hung up.
San Francisco Unified School District spokeswoman Laura Dudnick said she was aware of the principal’s resignation, but declined to comment on the story’s allegations.
“SFUSD takes every violent incident report very seriously and has policies in place to investigate and respond when an incident occurs at schools, including Everett,” Dudnick wrote in a statement. “School staff are responsible for respecting the confidentiality of students and staff. Therefore, administrators are limited in their ability to communicate publicly about anything that can identify personal information about a student or staff member.
Walker speculated that the Everett administration may have simply been “young and incompetent” or trying to get more funding by showing off a dire environment.
“They gave me several indications that they didn’t know what they were doing. So when I reported the ed code and breach of contract, they kind of looked at me blankly,” Walker said. “My heart tells me they believe what they are doing is the right thing. But they have shown clear indications that they are doing the wrong thing.
Yesi Castro-Mitchell, a computer science teacher and department head who left Everett earlier this year after being seriously assaulted, said she believes the administration is avoiding reporting the incidents for fear the school will be closed. for poor performance or high suspension rates.
At the start of the school year, she said teachers were instructed not to formally document incidents in the classroom. “Instead, they asked us to text in Google chat if something was wrong.”
When she showed up on the first day of school, a student stood up and beat her so badly that she suffered a concussion and now wears a hearing aid because she has lost 75% of her hearing.
Castro-Mitchell said no one told her about the student’s special needs or his history of behavioral issues. After the incident, she was encouraged to complete her classes for the day, and when the nurse said she had a concussion, Castro-Mitchell said the principal ignored her.
Later, she said her doctor reported the incident to the police.
The school took what Castro-Mitchell called a theatrical anti-racism approach, with good intentions — but she couldn’t imagine the district approving of the school not documenting harmful incidents. Leaving school after five years broke her heart, she said, but after she was assaulted — and, she says, suffered retaliation from the administration — Castro-Mitchell felt that she had no choice.
When Castro-Mitchell lobbied for the student to be removed from the workshop classroom full of potential weapons like drills and saws, and eventually started trying to apply for other jobs, she said the principal threatened to report her and come after her teaching degree.
“The day I left there were eight teachers, almost a third of the teachers,” Walker told Mission Local. On Wednesday, the day the principal announced her resignation, an Everett teacher posted on social media that 13 teachers were absent that day.
After remote learning for two years of the pandemic and the resulting academic and behavioral issues, many San Francisco Unified schools are facing similar staffing shortages. But parents and teachers agree that the situation in Everett is on another level.
Parent Dheyanira Calahorrano said that when classmates in her seventh year skip class, she tells him, “Yes, please get out, because you are safer outside than inside. interior. [class]room.”
When there is no substitute teacher or not, like most of the time in her son’s music and physical education classes, she pulls him out of school.