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The Gamut

The Gamut

The Gamut

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Limited You: AUHSD fails its students, teachers, and self

By laying off over 100 teachers, the AUHSD undermines all seven of its core values.
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Vanessa Marin-Ixlan

The average student can name every teacher they’ve had since freshman year. The average student cannot name a single school district board member. Yet, the Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) Board of Trustees’s decision to lay off 110 teachers shows that, in their eyes, teachers are disposable and students are no more than statistics. Ultimately, the AUHSD fails to prioritize the community it serves, disregarding all it should stand for.

Average Daily Attendance (ADA) dropped from 95% to 91% in the 2022-23 school year. As acknowledged in the March 7 Board of Trustees meeting, the district has been keenly aware of this downward trend in both attendance and enrollment for the past few years. A district this large should not drastically fail to plan ahead and ignore its students’ needs.

In 2020, the Board agreed to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes. Using one-time COVID-19 funding provided by the state, AUHSD chose to hire more teachers — knowing that the funds were temporary. Although the Board claims the district values its teachers by hiring more when other districts focused on purchasing protective pandemic materials, their decision only means they view teachers as disposable as the plexiglass walls that proliferate campuses. To hire teachers with limited funds amid a time of declining enrollment proves that these teachers are nothing more than a means to an end.

Some teachers who received a Reduction in Force (RIF) notice have worked for the AUHSD since 1999, yet may lose their livelihoods. These school site veterans are crucial to their department’s institutional memory. For instance, if all of Oxford’s notified teachers were laid off, that would remove three out of four teachers who have taught in Oxford’s English department for at least 10 years. Through uprooting the department’s faculty, the district erases part of Oxford’s history. In the eyes of the AUHSD, teachers’ hard work and loyalty they have devoted for years are worthless. For those who receive a RIF notice but will not get laid off, there is no guarantee they will remain teaching at the same school site next year — treating teachers and schools as replaceable.

Teachers are the ones who shape students’ lives, who make school sites what they are — not the board members who renovate pool structures and marquees, who fail to address any of their students’ needs. So, who does the Board of Trustees serve, if not their students?

No administrative staff, counselors, or other support staff are being laid off, forcing teachers to inequitably bear the brunt of declining enrollment. Other districts statewide (such as the San Diego Unified School District) are laying off faculty across the board, such as  administrative staff and counselors. The March 7 meeting agenda also originally included the discussion of a 4.5% salary increase for the superintendent, assistant superintendents, and District counsel — a tone-deaf notion, especially after years of consistent raises. The superintendent declined this raise. In a situation where budget cuts call for layoffs, it is the management’s responsibility to make a statement of solidarity through taking a pay cut, rather than entertaining the prospect of a raise, even if it is ultimately rejected.

Acutely unaware of what students need within the classroom, the Board also voted to develop an artificial intelligence tutor called sKrappy in eKadence, which has a projected cost of $450,000. Allocating AUHSD’s supposedly dwindling budget into artificial intelligence speaks volumes about how disconnected the Board of Trustees is from its students’ needs and desires.

According to 2022-23 School Accountability Report Cards, every single school located in Anaheim has over 50% of juniors who failed to reach the state standard in all three categories of English Language Arts, Math, and Science for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress — a concerning notion for a district that prides itself on innovative education through the 5 Cs and Performance Task Assignments. Cutting teachers only furthers the disparity between AUHSD’s quality of education and state levels. With crowded classrooms as a result of less teachers, students slip between the cracks since teachers must divide their attention among more students. Teachers are the ones who recognize when a student is struggling, not artificial intelligence and certainly not distant board members.

Although the AUHSD has focused on attracting foreign exchange students, increasing “cutting-edge” pathways, and providing alternative programming through Cambridge Virtual Academy, this doesn’t address currently enrolled students’ absenteeism. Laying off teachers only reduces morale for students who have lost connections they’ve cultivated for years and who will further feel ignored in larger classes.

Ultimately, the district has lost its purpose. AUHSD has seven core values. The Board of Trustees violates every one of them.

Most glaring is the 5 Cs: The district lacks compassion for the teachers whose livelihoods they have uprooted, failing to communicate an action plan years in advance, collaborate with its faculty, or apply critical thinking in finding a creative compromise. Most hypocritical is that the district believes its mission is “delivered primarily through instruction.” If instruction is as vital to AUHSD as it claims, then teachers should not be the only department bearing the brunt of declining enrollment. Most frustrating is its final core value: “Enhance and strengthen democracy through cultivation of student voice and problem solving.” Despite the many student voices that spoke up at the Board meeting, the district failed to form a compromise with its students.

Teachers are the ones who shape students’ lives, who make school sites what they are — not the board members who renovate pool structures and marquees, who fail to address any of their students’ needs. So, who does the Board of Trustees serve, if not their students?

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Your donation will support the student journalists of Oxford Academy. Your contribution will allow us to cover our website hosting for the 2024-2025 school year. Thank you for your support!

About the Contributors
Trisha Phan
Trisha Phan, Editor in Chief
Trisha Phan, a senior at Oxford, is this year's Editor in Chief of The Gamut. A staff member since freshman year, she served as the Lifestyle Editor for the 22-23 school year (her personal favorite section, as a lover of fun diction and features). Trisha is also the Co-President of the new Law and Politics Club and the Co-President of Cartooning Club (and advises all who love drawing to join). During her free time, she enjoys crocheting stuffed animals and reading. A Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift enthusiast, her favorite albums are NFR and Reputation. Since becoming part of the Gamut in her freshman year, Trisha has fallen in love with journalism, and is looking forward to trying new things this school year.
Vanessa Marin-Ixlan
Vanessa Marin-Ixlan, Staff Artist
A new part of Gamut’s staff this year, Vanessa Marin-Ixlan is currently a junior that is excited to take on her role as an illustrator. Vanessa joined the school’s newspaper to experience a more professional work environment and work with other talented illustrators. She has loved drawing ever since she was a kid, starting off with sketches of magical dragons and later making her way into comics. Full of creativity and expression, Vanessa’s dream is to become a comic artist and create her own comic books in the future, so she is truly ecstatic to see her illustrations being printed on paper. Along with drawing, Vanessa enjoys theology, poetry, biology, and animals. She can often be found going on walks or lounging and reading scientific papers. Excited for the year ahead of her, Vanessa is looking forward to getting to know her fellow staff members and meeting people that have similar interests to her.
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