Renton School District won't seek applicants from Teach for America

In the online story "Renton School District won't seek applicants from Teach for America," Superintendent Mary Alice Heuschel's teaching credentials were incorrectly referenced. Heuschel has a doctorate from Seattle Pacific University, a principal's and program administrator's certificate from Central Washington University, a master's of science special education from Northwestern University in Illinois and a bachelor's of science k-12 education from Wheelock College in Massachusetts. This online story has been edited to reflect the correct information.

The Renton School District was considering using applicants from the Teach for America program, but a higher influx of more qualified applicants to open teaching positions has taken the idea off the table.

Randy Matheson, district spokesperson, confirmed Friday afternoon the district's human resources department has received more applicants for teaching positions than it thought it would originally receive.

The only reason the district was considering using the Teach for America program is because district officials were concerned about being able to fill the more than 70 open positions in the district, Matheson said. Those positions are open due to staff retirements, maternity leaves and the relocation of teachers out of the district.

The district typically has about 100 open positions from year to year due in part to the student population growing by 200 students every year, meaning more teachers are needed.

The Teach for America program has been controversial in other schools districts. In March the Seattle School Board voted to keep its partnership with Teach for America, although the vote wasn't unanimous.

The debate over who was qualified to teach students in that district brought about tension from union officials and community activists in Seattle.

The controversy stems from the belief by some that novice teachers in the Teach for America program will be hired, instead of more experienced teaching staff. Teach for America calls itself a "national teacher corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach and to effect change in under-resourced urban and rural public schools," according to its web site.

At a Renton School Board meeting in May, Renton teaching staff addressed the school board with their dismay that the district was even considering using the program.

Despite emails and calls to Phyllis Silling Renton Education Association president, the teachers union was quiet on the issue. She did not respond to inquiries from the Renton Reporter.

Renton Superintendent Mary Alice Heuschel is a teacher and can identify with them.

She served in the classroom as a certified regular and special education teacher for 10 years, before she moved to assessment and later administration. She called teaching a "complex profession."

"This is 'my' profession," Heuschel said in an email when the district was still considering the program. "I am a fierce supporter and advocate of our teachers. I have an unwavering commitment to supporting the teaching profession, specifically with the Renton School District team of caring, dedicated professionals."

Heuschel noted that the district already has teachers in its career and technical education program who earned their certification through other state-approved alternative routes like the Teach for America program.

Because of the amount of online applicants the district's human resource office has received as of Thursday, May 31, the district will not put the question of Teach for America before the school board.


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