gets earful on
Teachers plead for reliefBy Debra Barayuga
from the dust, heat, flies,
smells and other
Smaller class sizes, air conditioning and better teaching and learning environments for students would entice teachers to stay on the Leeward Coast, some teachers say.
Schools on the Leeward Coast, known as training grounds for new teachers, have long been plagued with high teacher turnover.
But while the situation has improved somewhat in recent years, teacher retention continues to be a problem, Maili Elementary School Principal Linda Victor told a school board committee yesterday.
Some schools anticipate teachers leaving when the teacher transfer period reopens in February.
"We may lose staff again," Victor said.
Last year, Maili Elementary lost six teachers who transferred to other schools or moved back to the mainland.
Waianae High was losing nearly a third of its teachers every year, but this year only one transferred.
"Our teachers on the most part are choosing to stay," said Waianae High Principal Hazel Sumile.
In many cases, those seeking transfers are looking for positions at schools closer to their homes or with better conditions.
At Maili Elementary, flies and smells from nearby chicken and pig farms, persistent dust and temperatures as high as 95 degrees in portable classrooms make conditions for students and teachers difficult.
Teachers are perspiring while trying to teach, but nothing sinks in because students are affected by the heat and smells, said second-grade teacher Calvin Nakano.
"The environment has an effect on the children and the way they learn."
In the cafeteria, students eat with one hand, swat flies with the other. Some students are so used to the flies they don't even bother swatting them.
The first thing many teachers want to do when they get home is jump into the shower because of the dust that clings to their clothes and bodies daily.
"They feel so yucky," Nakano said.
Maili adopted a modified four-day school week in 1991 in hopes of reducing teacher turnover and improving student test scores.
Teacher turnover dropped from nearly 36 percent in 1988 to 13 percent three years after the schedule was implemented.
But when the school council voted earlier this year to revert to a five-day school week, nearly half of the second grade teachers wanted to leave, said Nakano. Only a few left because there weren't positions available.
District efforts to address the turnover -- such as a proposal to give incentive pay to teachers willing to be assigned to the Leeward Coast -- have been shot down by the unions, Sumile said.
"Learning conditions have been so difficult for our teachers," said Arlene Shigemasa, a resource teacher for Waianae schools and a former Waianae Elementary principal.
But most teachers on the Leeward Coast are committed, she said.
"If there's anyway to make life easier for the children and teachers, we would appreciate it."