El Paso ISD teachers protest coming district-wide changes

They feel teachers are bearing the burden of the district's looming $12.5 million budget shortfall.

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso Independent School District teachers gathered Monday afternoon at Brown Middle School protesting new changes coming down next school year.

They feel teachers are bearing the burden of the district's looming $12.5 million budget shortfall. About 131 teachers district-wide don't know what job they're going to be performing next school year. And it's because the district has decided to move the teachers to fill open positions.

The district said the teachers are not being being laid off, but in a sense they are losing positions they may have had for years. EPISD said it's about efficiency, but these teachers don't see it that way.

A handful of teachers, parents and students gathered at Brown Middle, demonstrating their distaste for new district-wide changes.

"Forty-five minutes is definitely not enough time," said Brown Middle seventh grade teacher Maria Gonzalez.

They're upset with the district moving from a block schedule, made up of four 90 minute periods, to a traditional 8 period day.

"Our students are growing, their brains are developing, 45 minutes is not enough time to practice, to internalize and master all these new concepts," Gonzalez said.

But the district disagrees. Right now it's the only district in El Paso that hasn't adopted block scheduling at the middle school level. Administrators say that with block scheduling,
"Within that time you have the instruction, time for kids to possibly do some time of homework, and then you skip a day and content is lost," said Dr. Royce Avery, chief school officer of Area 2. "Eight period days give you 45 minutes everyday with that teacher."

The district is also taking one of the two prep periods from math, science, social studies and language arts teachers, and making them attend trainings or help out in another classroom. The district says these changes help save money, although they haven't said how much.

Gonzalez though, is most worried about 131 teachers who have no idea if they'll even be placed in the classrooms they've been teaching in for years.

"This is my home, this is where I really want to teach. All my students are like my own kids, I love them the same way, if I have to move to another school, then i'll do it, but I consider this my home," Gonzalez said.

"Many of our teachers, they'll been with us for quite some time, they know that working for EPISD is just that, its working for the district, not for a particular campus," said Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Robert Almanzan.

The district is confident it will find these teachers jobs because of the number of faculty retiring this year. This coming school year, EPISD will have the lowest student to teacher ratio in El Paso, 21 to 1. But until the district decides where they're going to put these 131 teachers, the teachers are stuck in limbo until most likely until the end of summer. 

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