Teachers seek added support at School 7

A teacher pleaded for more support at School 7 during the Dunkirk Board of Education meeting last week.

Katie Burlett, who teaches first grade at the school, said she was speaking on behalf of the school’s teachers. Noting the elementary school has the highest level of special needs children in the district, she said the situation for the teachers there “seems impossible” under the district’s proposed budget.

“For most of them in this building, it hasn’t been easy,” Burlett said of her colleagues. “Teachers are being assaulted physically, mentally and emotionally on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Some of the teachers in this room have been bit, hit, kicked, slapped and punched. Classrooms are being destroyed, and students are being evacuated sometimes daily, because of the behaviors taking place… There is a lack of consequences for these students and most return to the classroom later in the day.”

Under the proposed budget, she said “Class sizes will be larger, and the need greater. Support will be less, and teachers will be left feeling overwhelmed by the burden of poor planning.”

Superintendent Michael Mansfield said the district was bringing in “an excellent behavioral specialist” and an additional part-time social worker to help out at School 7. He encouraged bringing concerns to various school district officials.

“We have been asking for help for years, and for years we have been told no one is coming,” Burlett said.

Another district official said the teacher ratio at School 7 will actually go down to 2.2 students for every teacher, from 2.6 students per teacher this school year. However, according to Burlett, the district will be transferring full-time positions and replacing them with support personnel that are “already strained and overwhelmed.”

Burlett and district officials later found common ground on one thing: They bemoaned the lack of parent involvement in district affairs, despite several efforts to spark it.


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