Complete data from our KPS teachers survey

For our reporting on teacher retention, NowKalamazoo administered a survey of Kalamazoo Public Schools teachers. In the interest of transparency, we are providing the results below for all to see.

For our reporting on teacher retention, NowKalamazoo administered a survey of Kalamazoo Public Schools teachers, which was also distributed by the Kalamazoo Education Association, the union that represents teachers as well as other staff such as librarians and counselors. Of the 149 respondents, 139 were active teachers, which represents around 18% of KPS teachers.

In order to preserve editorial independence, only NowKalamazoo’s senior editorial staff were given access to the raw data, which has been reviewed for quality and to maintain the anonymity of the respondents. In the interest of transparency, we are providing the results below for all to see. The responses to prompts and questions, including free-form text answers, follow demographic information about the respondents.

Are there other challenges or concerns, personal or professional, not mentioned in the previous questions?

Free-form answers are included below and are kept anonymous.

“Teachers and staff in my building are held to no professional
standards or job requirements. Teachers who don’t perform their job duties are
given the same regard-or more-as teachers who work extremely hard in all
aspects. We’ve had support positions open for literal years and never
interviewed anyone. Instead, some teachers/staff are expected to cover the open
positions, without even basic acknowledgement, and completely unequally in terms
of time and workload.”

“Salary that reflects the professionalism we are required to have.”

“The evaluation system is a major area of concern.”

“Lack of work life balance.”

“I am solely responsible for teaching myself the ins and outs of this job.
Since I started at KPS it always feels like no one really knows what’s going
on, there are no clear procedures and guidelines (and if there are they aren’t
easily accessible). When I first started I was in a panic because I felt like I
didn’t know anything and that at any moment I could do something wrong, without
even knowing it, and thus get in trouble. None of this ever ended up happening,
but it was very anxiety producing and had me questioning if I made the right
decision to get into education or not. There were many times when I first
started working where I seriously considered finding a job in the corporate
world, where I could have safe and comfortable working conditions, a livable
salary, clear procedures and guidelines, not being constantly disrespected and
undermined by students, parents and admin, etc. I don’t know if I can continue
working this job long term, I for sure will be working for the next 5 years so
I can obtain my teaching certificate. But if there are no increases in
salary/benefits I don’t know that it would be a logical career path for me long

“Lack of proper communication.”

“Too much micromanagement from the admin building.”

“I’m extremely concerned by the lack of concern for students growth and
safety in my school. My special education students are very rarely pulled or
pushed in on for their legally allotted amount of time and there has been some
very concerning instances regarding safety of children that have gone on
without adults at school being held responsible.”

“Lack of consequences for students misbehaving.”

“There are almost no consequences for behaviors like skipping, phone use,
cussing at teachers, etc. it’s like the Wild West. Student do whatever they

“Administrators that do not work in buildings (aka work at the Admin
Building) have a very unrealistic viewpoint of what it is like to be a teacher
and holding students accountable and keeping both students and staff safe. (not
all, but many).”

“Trust is a large issue. The 250,000+ package to Rita Raichoudhuri could
have gone into special ed services, which at this point, are more than likely
illegal. Building inadequacies are also a large issue. This includes technology
input from schools for needs/wants (schools use to have a voice with technology
services/facilities and we no longer do), air conditioning, broken/old
classroom furniture, lack of support staff, and placing 29 students in 1st-3rd
classrooms is a major issue for work load/stress/meeting student care/needs
they deserve. Other building have 17 students, new everything, and special ed/support
staff, while some buildings don’t.

It would be great to get back to building committees with a voice and
financial/technical support from the district.

We also need to fight against the sexualization of our K-5 students.”

“Behavior and violence in schools is hard to manage when the behavior team
is inadequate to help students. There is no real change with behavior. Students
threatening teachers, other students, and no consequences for behaviors that
support teachers create a powerless situation for teachers. Students feel that
they can do what they want to whom they want without consequences for their
actions. Behavior management is becoming harder due to student apathy and lack
of responsibility for their own actions and how it affects others. There is no
follow through for behavior plans, teachers are not supported when asked for
help with troubled students. Parents blame the teacher and administration
blames the teacher as well.”

“Lack of knowledge working with kids of trauma.”

“The district punishes the better teachers.”

“The cleanliness of the building and overall lack of maintenance is
demoralizing. The bathrooms (staff and student) are unclean, often lacking soap
and/or paper towels, and frequently closed because of malfunctioning plumbing.”

“Teachers are not treated like professionals.”

“There is no longer an alternative learning program in KPS. They closed it
a few years ago. This means that students who would qualify for alternative
education are in the traditional setting. Buildings are not equipped to implement
tier 3 intervention with fidelity.”

“As teachers, we are constantly in a state of flux with either new
curriculum or new testing programs. We are expected to do the work of 2 jobs
and if we stand up and say no, then we are made to look as if we are selfish
and/or not in it for the children.”

“Disproportionate number of after school meetings and trainings compared
to other districts in the area.”

“The us vs them mentality is killing us – admin vs teachers vs parents –
everyone wants to blame others. Not working together!”

“The time expected for professional development and after school meetings
too great.”

“Note: student teachers are getting stipends from the state currently
& have a mentoring program.”

“The lack of respect from the human resources superintendent Sheila Dorsey
who has too much power and doesn’t care about staff or students.”

“Something that concerns me greatly are elective programs dwindling due to
a shortage of teachers.”

“Special Ed caseloads being over 20 with some high flying behaviors”

“new math curriculum that is challenging to effectively implement”

“There is no accountability for principals who create hostile work
environments. Why are principals not receiving unannounced observations
multiple times a year?”

“Technology and cell phone/ Social media use amongst kids.”

“The amount of days/hours we are expected to stay after school for
PD/meetings instead of spending time with our family.”

“The great divide between staff and upper administration. It is an Us vs.
Them. It feels like they blame us for every problem, but have no idea what the
life is for a teacher is, when classes are split, lack of staff to support the
needs of our students. They do not understand that for a school with high
poverty and trauma you need real class size reductions. K-3 classes in these
buildings need to be below 20 students, with real support for interventions, a
dedicated social worker to provide mental health assistance to our students
with trauma, and support for students with disabilities. (Resource teachers
having state case load limit of 18 at Elementary and 20 at secondary)”

“The constant after school meetings make it really hard to have family
time. While I want to stay at KPS and intend to for at least a couple more
years these meeting make it hard with daycare and after school activities for
my own child. I anticipate that in the next couple years, it will make it
nearly impossible to be at events for my child’s after school activities. For
that reason I feel unsure about my future with KPS.”

“There is a general messiness in this district that is embarrassing.
People working in the admin building have no idea what is happening in the
schools. Teachers face punitive measures for things like not submitting a
lesson plan on time, but then administration will send an email out at 8 pm
letting teachers know that on the very next day, their students will be pulled
from class for some reason.”

“The world of public education is broken. It’s not just KPS. But there
are certainly things that KPS can do better. KPS seems to be chiefly concerned
with their public image, and that has been demonstrated time after time with
decisions from all levels of administration and the board. This is why there is
no group more powerful in KPS than the white, financially comfortable parents.
They are more powerful than the board, the teacher’s union, or any employee at
any level. And I don’t mean to disrespect the parents who are involved, that’s
what we want–but it’s the district’s responsibility to make parental
involvement more possible and equitable. And to occasionally tell a parent “no”
and stand behind it when the parent takes their demand up the chain. I’ve been
told on multiple occasions that a decision is being made to cater to “the
parents who know who to complain to when things don’t go their way.” We
have this equity task force, and I think that’s great and important work, but
it’s meaningless when the power structure is built on the foundation of what is
going to make the district look good or bad to the well-connected parents.”

“A lot of people have thoughts on dealing with student behavior. I
believe deeply in restorative justice. There has been a lot of talk about
restorative justice in KPS for the past few years, but so far it has been only
talk. We hired a wonderful restorative practices interventionist at my school,
but then administration turned around and made him a security guard. Suspension
is not an ideal response to student behavior in most cases; however, right now,
suspension is the only recourse available to us, so until this district puts
its money where its mouth is and builds a restorative justice program,
administration needs to suspend kids for things like violence and bullying. I’m
not advocating for suspensions as best practice, I’m advocating for the
administration to use the only tool it has bothered to acquire to deal with
these highly disruptive behaviors. The only alternative to suspension that we
realistically have available is to do nothing and allow a small number of
students to continue disrupting the educational environment. And so that’s the
choice administrators have been making: suspend a student, or do nothing. When
they suspend a student, they disrupt that student’s education, and that’s why
we need a real alternative. But when they do nothing repeatedly in multiple
incidents, they disrupt the entire building. Listen, the building I work in is
not a pleasant place to be. It’s just not. It’s dirty, chaotic, and harsh.”

“There is so much to love about KPS, and working here in many ways has
been an honor. I wanted to work my entire career here, I dreamt of retiring
from KPS after 30 years. But I can’t do it anymore, and I’m really sad about
that. It’s just not sustainable for me. I’m making more money next year for
doing about half the work. I have to take that opportunity for myself and my
family. I think we have the best teachers in the whole world in this district.
I think if those teachers were given a manageable workload and fairly
compensated, they could seriously work miracles for our students. But the best
teacher in the world can’t reach every student, every opportunity, every time
when they have 5 classes of 35 9th graders, some of whom read at a 2nd grade
level, some of whom require far more academic or social-emotional support than
one teacher can offer, some of whom are dealing with circumstances outside of
school that are almost unbelievable to most of us privileged enough to work
with them.

Lastly, with Battle Creek announcing their version of the Promise, I fear
that our trend of enrollment increases may soon come to an end.”

“Filthy dirty schools (unswept/un-mopped floors, dust, nasty bathrooms,
no soap, clogged toilets, etc.)”

“Portage makes $10 grand more than we do.”

“Terrible building administration.”

“Being asked for your opinions, but then never taking the next step or
having to fill out surveys a couple of times a year and going over it, but then
everything stays the same. The main issues, have been the same ones that have
been around for a while and nothing is really done about them.”

“Amount of time spent outside of school hours and contract hours in

“Ability of behaviorally challenged students to move from building to
building when parents get mad at the consequences given their child.”

“Too many demands from admin to perform additional duties not directly
related to classroom instruction/management. Constant increase in extra
responsibilities, even after admin has been asked to reduce work requirements.”

“Constantly going over class size limit in the early primary grades due to
staff shortages/lack of subs/housing ISS students. Having professional
development that is a one size fits all. I’d love to get trained on something
that was relevant to me or what I want to learn/need instead of the same things
multiple times.”

“Pay. Our salaries are sub par. As a recent masters degree graduate, I
will reap no immediate benefit, but will have to wait 2 years to do so. The pay
must be increased to retain teachers and be commensurate with cost of living.”

“Insufficient planning time is what leads to the work/life imbalance. I
have 280 minutes of plan time per week. If I use half of that time to prepare
for upcoming lessons (so approximately 25 mins per day to plan all subjects),
that leaves me less than 5 minutes per kid per week to provide feedback on all
of their assignments. When you add to that the times plan is cancelled or the
times it is interrupted by student behavior, it is even less. It is expected
that I work outside of work.”

“Staff doesn’t know what’s going on due to lack of communication from
administrators and it’s inconsistent… We also don’t have our voices heard and
often we are not asked what we think as a staff.”

“Yes, the Human Resources system at KPS is not professionally designed to
bring about the important outcomes as it relates to hiring and retention. The
system has evolved over time, it has not been professionally designed.
Professional human resource management is critical to the survival of this

“Fear that the seniors in HR prevent teachers from advancing in their
careers, new teacher turnover/retention, pay.”

“Not enough plan time for all the job responsibilities.”

“Teachers that do the right thing and follow rules tend to get tougher
classes or caseloads
Inadequate administrators make our jobs terrible. Especially, when we become
targets from inept principals.”

“The amount of time we are asked to give to meetings and “PD” that has not
been planned with our school needs in mind is disrespectful to our time and
disempowering. KPS leadership has no faith in teacher expertise and seems to
try to undermine our efforts to help improve at every step. One big issue is
that many of our district and school leaders spent very limited, if any time,
in Kalamazoo classrooms (or classrooms at all).”

“Evaluations are a joke. The grading system is highly problematic.”

“There is too much testing for first grade!!!!!”

“Class sizes in KPS are too damn high! 29 2nd graders with the behaviors
and academic demands make it impossible to reach everyone.”

“Lack of adequate teacher salary.”

“Lack of parent support/ criticism from parents.”

“Requirements that teachers must complete within their job duties there is
too much for one human to do alone.”

“Teacher Displacement has pulled my passion out of teaching.”

“Lack of respect from admin.”

“Discipline of students”

“Attendance is a HUGE issue.”

“Colleague stress due to unclear, inconsistent expectations for teaching

“Micromanaging by administrators at central admin.”

“Hiring for teaching teams is broken, there are no longer interviews with
existing staff to find a good fit. There is just a body placed in a position,
often on a whim or as a personal favor.
Human resource head who clearly doesn’t care about humans or sustaining
resources, just her desire for power and control.”

“Too many after school meetings and increasing demands placed on teachers
that do not contribute to actually teaching kids.”

“Lack of union support for ancillary staff.”

“The District’s policy of allowing students to earn credit for a course
based on the final exam grade alone coupled with the lack of attendance
procedure/expectation is going to make it extremely difficult to teach. It will
impact students who believe they can pass without attending class. Most
students cannot pull this off. However, they may not realize it until it is too

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