Former teacher calls on school leaders to address education standards for Gadsden County students

A former Gadsden County teacher is calling on school leaders to address the quality of education throughout the district.
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 10:44 PM EST
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GADSDEN COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) - A former Gadsden County teacher is calling on school leaders to address the quality of education throughout the district.

Shaia Simmons is a former Gadsden County teacher and parent. After taking several years off, Simmons said she returned to teaching at the beginning of the school year to help fight the teacher shortage. She resigned in January.

“I had first graders who never checked out a book,” said Simmons. “That’s not okay.” Simmons was most recently a teacher at George W. Munroe Elementary.

Currently, the district said students at the school do not have access to books in the library. “In Gadsden County, there’s a shortage of certified librarians,” said superintendent Elijah Key.

“If there are media specialist shortages across the country and teacher shortages across the country, I absolutely understand that,” said Simmons. “But, we can’t just take the shortages and go with that. We have to figure out how to provide the very best education we can for our students.”

Key said teachers are expected to have classroom libraries or request books to help build their class inventory. Simmons said she spent hundreds of dollars and received book donations to help keep her students reading. She noted that newer teachers don’t always have the money needed to get supplies for their classes.

Another concern for Simmons is her former students not participating in the Accelerated Reader (AR) program - a problem she said will impact kids for years to come. Key said the AR program is considered supplemental learning, and it is optional for schools. He said part of the challenge with teachers doing AR is related to new math and reading programs this year. “Teachers are trying to get comfortable with that, and then they will start incorporating Accelerated Reader and other supplements back into their daily lessons,” said Key.

District-wide, Key said the number of successful AR tests dropped from roughly 12,000 last year, to about 8,400 so far this school year. “When you look at the overall data, and how we’re so far behind the rest of the state when it comes to the average at the state level, our focus has to be getting kids to read,” said Key.

Simmons held a community meeting Thursday evening to share her concerns with other parents and teachers. She also said she plans to hand-deliver a letter to the state’s department of education on Friday, ahead of Tuesday’s school board meeting.