Amid a national teaching shortage, Marion City Schools saw 40 employee resignations approved in the July board of education meeting.
This large movement of teachers and staff left some wondering why.
One of those teachers said it was a lack of support especially regarding what some have called a "crisis of discipline" within the district.
Alex Kash said he saw unclear and inconsistent enforcement of rules and policies throughout the building, and while he was able to be in control of his classroom and work to build respectful relationships with students, he experienced issues outside the classroom due to the inconsistent enforcement of building policies.
“All of my issues this past year were outside of my classroom – in the hallway, in the help center, stairwell," said Kash, a former Harding High School math teacher and department chair. “I’m not the top dog in that space, and the top dog wasn’t backing me up. The hallway is not my space, but I have to be backed up if I have an issue there, and I didn’t feel like they had my back."
At the meeting where the resignations were approved, Board Member Scott Weibling wondered why so many staff members left at one time, asking if the district planned on organizing exit interviews with the former employees to determine the reasons why for each individual.
"With the long list of people who are leaving the district, for whatever reason, are they leaving education or are they going to another district? Are they moving out of state? We need to find out why people are leaving and if there’s something that we can and should and need to do about it," Weibling said.
Interim Superintendent Steve Mazzi said he would begin organizing exit interviews, and he provided an update a few weeks later explaining that in the exit interviews he had accomplished thus far, he was finding that staff were leaving for a variety of reasons, that he would make known to the public after the district was done conducting them.
Mazzi stepped up to lead the district in a time of administrative transition. Before these 40 teachers submitted their resignations, the district lost its superintendent, assistant superintendent and numerous building principals as well.
Kash said he has not yet had an exit interview.
He said he could not speak for all teachers, but personal experience was that his decision to find a job closer to home in Pennsylvania was motivated by what he referred to as feeling disrespected as a professional to do his job.
Kash explained that while he will miss his coworkers and the community he built in Marion, which was what kept him in the district for five years, he said he felt a lack of support from administration,
The conversation regarding discipline and behavioral issues in the district largely has taken place at the monthly board meetings: conversations that have been filled with disagreements among board members and emotional testimonies from district teachers, parents and community members.
This dialogue first began after the election of Weibling and fellow Board Member Rocky Ratliff in November 2021, and it has continued to be a talking point for the district and its community.
Kash said though the new board members have instigated some difficult conversations, it was this movement that carried him through the 2021 - 2022 academic year.
“The election of Scott and Rocky was probably the only ray of hope that got me through this past school year,” he said.
“Yes, does Rocky ruffle feathers, of course. There’s no way meaningful change is going to happen without a course change."
Marion Education Association President Jami Rawlins has been a prominent voice among the teachers speaking out in favor of addressing behavioral issues at the monthly board meetings in order to advocate for her staff.
She recently announced that she felt "optimistic" for the forward movement the district was taking under Mazzi to address these problems as he has been already gathering information to undergo a "discipline review" within the district.
Rawlins met with Mazzi and Assistant Superintendent Olympia Della Flora Aug. 5 to specifically discuss discipline, and she said the meeting went well, but it was just the beginning.
“I do think it went well. The meeting probably needs to continue. There just wasn’t enough time to cover all of the material, and so Steve did say that he wants the conversation to continue,” Rawlins said.
Regarding Kash's experience and if she felt the crisis of discipline was as bad as some staff members had claimed she said the following:
“I have been union president for a very long time, and I never had to turn to the board in this manner so repeatedly to try to get assistance to help our staff."
Story by: Sophia Veneziano (740) 564 - 5243 ∣ email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Marion Star: One of 40 Marion City Schools staff members to resign in July speaks