Voices from SDoL express concern over school re-staffing

At the Tuesday, June 16, School District of Lancaster (SDoL) Board Meeting, several members of the community addressed the Board regarding the District’s recently announced plan to transfer management of Buehrle Alternative School to a Philadelphia-based firm. Buehrle, with its facility on E Clay St, provides specialized education to students with continued disciplinary problems.

Although no lay-offs will occur as a result of the shift, many Buehrle teachers are likely to be reassigned to positions outside of the school. This issue of re-staffing took center stage during the Tuesday meeting’s public comment session.

A disheartened student from Buehrle explained his concern for the teachers that had worked with him during his time at the school: “Ms. Brown and Mr. Rodriguez were the best teachers I’ve ever had. Back [when I was] at Wheatland, I didn’t really feel comfortable. Not every teacher was as interesting as them. They make the work interesting…I’d consider them like my big brother and my big sister. Our relationship over this year has been fantastic.”

A woman from the community who has worked extensively with the District, visiting all but two of its schools, petitioned the Board to find a way to continue working with these personally qualified teachers: “It seems to me that even if we do hire another organization to help us with alternative education, I see no reason why we cannot look along those who have been working with these kids. Why are they all to be transferred out?….There is knowledge that can only be gained that way….Sometimes we need to respect our home-grown.”

Kelly Ballentine, a Magisterial District Judge from Lancaster City, explained how she fears the change could effect Buehrle students: “I’m coming a perspective of dealing with kids who are challenged every day….I’m begging you to reconsider working with an organization that would choose to transfer our people out of their program….One of the problems that our children suffer from is this fear that people are going to continue to walk away from them….”

In response, Superintendent Pedro Rivera assured all those concerned about the change that the school administration did not take this decision lightly: “It’s not an easy decision to make. But, at the end of the day, it’s a decision that in the best interest of all kids, and we can provide a sustainable, long-lasting program that’s going to support kids from the beginning of their educational program to the time they graduate.”

Rivera clarified that the District has “not taken any position to displace staff at that school. Should they wish to apply to continue serving the children, and are certified to do so, they can.” Finally, Rivera asserted that, if some existing Buehrle teachers are not rehired for lack of certification, this would simply be in the line State compliance.

The final decision to transfer the management of Buehrle Alternative will be held to a School Board vote on June 30.