SARATOGA SPRINGS —Dozens of people huddled together in the frigid darkness. With glow sticks and cell phones to light the way, they marched towards downtown Saratoga. Thus began a dramatic and emotional night for Saratoga Springs City School District teachers and their supporters.
The march began and ended at the Caroline Street Elementary School, where a Board of Education (BOE) meeting occurred on Thursday, November 9. The demonstration was in support of the teachers’ union, which has been negotiating a new contract with the district for two years.
During the board meeting, teachers criticized the current state of their schools.
“In all my years here, morale is at an all-time low,” said Robin Chudy. “I see a huge change. I see good, young teachers leaving this district; good teachers looking for jobs in different districts that pay more, and I can’t blame them.”
John Mishoe, a 2005 graduate of the district, spoke of teachers experiencing “nights of tears, searching for new careers, and early retirement.”
“I implore the board to take action in securing and maintaining teachers,” said Katie Cole. “It’s what our current and future students deserve.”
At a previous BOE meeting on October 12, teacher Melissa Deutsch said she has not received a “true raise” in over eight years. “Each contract that provides more salary also increases our healthcare contributions, wiping out any significant increase in take-home pay,” she said.
At both BOE meetings, teachers said that the district was struggling to hire and retain employees.
In a statement to Saratoga TODAY, Saratoga School District’s Director of Community Outreach and Communications Maura Manny said that “teacher retention and recruitment are ongoing priorities for our district, and we continuously strive to create an environment that attracts and retains professionals who are dedicated to the success of our students.”
“Like many school districts across the nation,” Manny said, “the nationwide teacher shortage makes teacher recruitment and retention more challenging each year. Despite these challenges, our district has been fortunate to consistently attract a talented pool of applicants for our open positions.”
According to a November 2021 report from the U.S. Department of Education, New York State “has faced geographically widespread and persistent teacher shortages.”