Baker Middle parents voice substitute teacher complaints

About a dozen Baker Middle School parents complained about the challenges of too many substitute teachers at the school during a forum this week in the school gym.

“I can tell you that it’s a struggle for my family to stay here in Baker because of the school system,” parent Andre Pikes told school staff and members of the Baker School Board during a Thursday forum. “Each year, it seems like we have a principal change, a teacher change and change of plan. We need one path, one plan,”

Pikes said his daughter was making Ds and Fs when she had a substitute teacher and As and Bs when she had a permanent teacher.

Baker Middle School Principal Mary McManus and Assistant Principal Candace Jenkins told parents that although the school had some staffing problems at the start of the school year, the school was staffed with 85 percent certified teachers.

The other 15 percent, McManus and Jenkins said, are working on getting their certifications.

Baker School Superintendent Ulysses Joseph has said it has been a challenge to keep teachers in the system because of pay issues and the number of teachers eligible for retirement. A teacher’s starting salary in Baker is around $39,000 a year, Joseph has said.

Kori Leatherman, the father of two children attending Baker Middle School, also voiced concerns Thursday.

“She will probably struggle in high school because of the all the substitutes she has had,” Leatherman said.

Other parents at Thursday’s forum complained to School Board members and staff about discipline that is too lenient, discipline handed down too quickly without warning to parents and a lack of communication between staff and parents. McManus told the parents the school has an open-door policy and they can come anytime to speak to her or other staff members.

Angela Pikes, Andre Pikes’ wife, said parents Thursday were putting too much blame on the school staff.

“This all starts in the home. I don’t wait for a teacher to call me. This (school) is not a babysitter or day care. I hope you can do whatever you have to do to keep teachers here. Parents and teachers need to work together,” Angela Pikes said.

Joseph also touted Baker Middle School for receiving the state Department of Education rating as a 2012-2013 “Top Gain” school, which goes to schools that improve their performance more quickly than projected.

Joseph said Baker Middle School was rated a D school as a result of the state’s last round of assessment tests, a move up a letter grade from F over the previous year.

Jenkins also told parents that school staff was analyzing student performance and teacher techniques based on the Common Core curriculum.