Large Numbers of HISD Teachers Are Quitting, Many Over Workplace Mistreatment

Carol Christian,
Fed up with a stressful work environment, teachers are leaving the Houston Independent School District this year in what could be record numbers, according to the Houston Federation of Teachers.

“I think by the end of January, we’re looking at 700 or more who have walked out of HISD,” said Joanna Pasternak, the union’s grievance director. “It’s extremely surprising,” said Pasternak, who has worked 10 years for the union, following 11 years as a teacher. “We have never seen anything like this.”

In response to a public information request, the district gave the union a report that shows 134 teachers had quit by the first week of November, Pasternak said. That number included some terminations for cause but was mostly voluntary resignations, she said. By the first week in December, the number had jumped to 366, she said.

Based upon the volume and tenor of phone calls to the union office, many more teachers have followed suit, Pasternak said.

The district, however, said that 300 of HISD’s 11,000 teachers, or 2.7 percent, had resigned as of Jan. 8. At the same point last year, 234 teachers had resigned, spokesman Jason Spencer said in an email Thursday.

School Board President Mike Lunceford said he wanted to know more about those who have quit. “Everything I’ve heard to date is anecdotal,” Lunceford said. “I want to know, Did we do exit interviews? If people are leaving, find out why. With almost 12,000 teachers, you’re going to have some turnover every year.”

Gayle Fallon, Houston Federation of Teachers president, said one reason so many teachers are breaking their contracts this year is that they have been mistreated by principals. “A lot of our campus administrators are absolutely abusive,” she said. “They scream at people. No one wants to be told to sit down and shut up in a faculty meeting, or be yelled at in front of students, parents or their peers.”

Other problems, Pasternak said, include a subjective evaluation system and principals’ reluctance to discipline students.
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