Teaching position filled as Butler High works to shed stigma - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Teaching position filled as Butler High works to shed stigma


A math class at Butler High School finally has a teacher after five weeks without one.

A concerned parent first alerted WAFF to the issue. She said a substitute has been teaching her daughter's tenth grade math class ever since the teacher resigned during the first week of school.

The woman told us her daughter has not had any homework or tests in the class. She also said when progress reports came out, her daughter did not have a math grade.

Today a new teacher finally took over the class. 

Sanchella Graham is the new principal at Butler High School. She says she has interviewed a number of candidates since the position became open, but every time she has made an offer, a teacher has declined once they found out the position was at Butler High.

The school had a few other open positions but those have now been filled. The principal blames the hiring troubles on the stigma Butler carries.

"It's not always that people don't want to come to Butler, but there is a challenge and sometimes teachers hear things and they are not always up for that challenge," explained Graham.

The Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools said the reason this position was open for so long is part of a much bigger issue.

Dr. Casey Wardynski said this is the perfect example of why the district has brought in all kinds of special resources to help improve "failing schools." He said schools with that label carry a stigma that often makes the hiring process more difficult.

"When you've got a school you are looking to turn around by dramatically improving education, there are all kinds of impediments in making that happen. This is an example of one of those impediments. Folks that focus on things that really don't have to do with education is another one. All those things are key parameters in why "failing schools" fail. The superintendents and principals have to work past all that," said Wardynski.

Now the principal is working to shed that stigma the school seems to carry. She is focusing on increasing parent participation and improving student attendance and academics. The principal said she can already see a change.

"Our staff has been working very hard to overcome that. I think we have come together as a school, and really as a community," added Graham.

Meantime, the principal said staff members have been working to make sure these students do not miss out on any math curriculum. She said the math team came together and compiled lesson plans for the substitute to teach.

"They have not missed their assignments in terms of what they need to do in class. Anything the students are doing in the other classes, they are doing as well," said Graham.

While there is no immediate incentive to take a job at a "failing school," Dr. Wardynski said there can be in the long run.

"The incentive is the opportunity to do something dramatic in a child's life and really make a difference. Those are the kind of teachers we are looking for at Butler," added Wardynski.

Huntsville City Schools has roughly 1500 teachers. Currently, there are just five positions they still need to fill. A spokesperson says all five of those openings came because teachers resigned after the school year started.

Dr. Wardynski said teachers in the "Teach for America" program often help fill the void. In fact, Butler's principal says seven of her new hires are a part of that program, including the teacher who started today.

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