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Frustrated teachers say Livingston School Board won't address concerns

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LIVINGSTON PARISH - Dozens of teachers in Livingston Parish are fed up and say the hybrid model of learning is not working for them or their students.

Some teachers say, what’s more frustrating, is that the Livingston Parish School Board hasn’t been receptive to their complaints. And they say that attitude was very apparent at Thursday night’s board meeting.

Teachers who spoke Thursday night brought up some of the continuous problems they've faced while juggling in-person and online learning. They thought some progress was about to be made when the meeting took a sudden turn.

Walker High art teacher Andrew Pullman explained the problem to board members at the meeting.

Students in grades six through twelve are broken into four groups under Livingston School’s hybrid system. One group attends in-person classes every day, two other groups alternate days of in-person and online learning, and the last group attends class completely online.

"We don't have any extra planning time. So in the middle of teaching, I'm getting text messages or emails from my virtual kids who are like 'hey I need help with an assignment.’ Well, I can't stop and help you because I have kids in my class,” Pullman said.

Elementary teacher Brandy Sheffield said teachers want to be able to respond to all the students' needs.

"We need something to be done about the virtual. We just are being stretched way too thin. We've always been stretched way too thin and we've always done this because we love children,” Sheffield said.

After hearing those concerns and others, board member Devin Gregoire suggested forming a committee made up of teachers from each school to hash out how to improve this year. That was welcome news to teachers. But that option was taken off the table soon after it was brought up.

"And we got hope for the first time that something was going to be done. That this committee was going to be formed, with teachers. And the motion was immediately shut down by a secondary motion. And it was like a slap in our faces,” Shannon King Wooten, another Walker High teacher, said.

Kelly Hennessy Dickerson and Gregoire were the only two board members who supported teachers forming this committee. She says that the board is aware of these issues, but so far has chosen to do nothing.

"I have no idea what goes through these school board members' minds," Dickerson said. “And it’s okay to have problems and to not be perfect and to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. But when you ignore the mistakes, and when their pleas for help go on deaf ears, we’ve got a serious problem in Livingston Parish.”

Pullman says that he and his fellow teachers still have the same singular goal in mind: educating all students. But he says he’s worried they won’t be able to do that without an ongoing dialogue with the school board.

"We don't want to walk out. We don't want there to be a strike. And those things aren't really being talked about because we want to be in school. We want to be in school more than we already are. And we want to help the kids and we're just so heartbroken that the people that we think should be backing us aren't,” Pullman said.

Livingston Superintendent Joe Murphy released a video statement on Friday talking about the school system's status and acknowledging some of the problems teachers are facing. He did not directly address Thursday night’s board meeting.


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