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‘I don’t know if I can make it.’ Muskegon Heights teacher acknowledges staffing challenges

A high school English teacher is raising his own concerns after a parent highlighted students' issues with teacher staffing and curriculum.

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — A high school English teacher for the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System (MHPSAS) is corroborating past claims made by an anonymous parent, that the district is short-staffed on teachers and affecting student curriculum as a result.

“A lot of days is just like -- I don't know if I can make it,” teacher Ty Ross said, adding that Muskegon Heights High is a majority-black school. “I do tell the kids all the time, ‘I'm not going to quit on them.’ And I really hope that I can hold to that, because I don't want to give up on these kids.”

Ross, who has been with the district for two years, said his school has only five certified teachers. Currently, they are lacking a P.E., health and foreign language teacher. In addition, they do not have any special education teachers, he said.

Those gaps are causing classroom instructions to be less involved for students, Ross explained, and is a recipe for students to take advantage of the situation for the worse.

“The kids have kind of gotten used to taking control of their education, which isn't very educational,” he said. “We feel like, we're writing so many referrals, and getting kids in trouble. I don't think that's necessarily the best for our student bodies, but we're kind of at our wits’ ends for what else to do.”

Ross estimates at least 12 teachers are needed to close the gap at the high school.

Muskegon Heights is not an independent school district and instead managed by New Paradigm For Education (NPFE), which is described as a nonprofit Charter Management Organization according to their website.

In a press statement from Robert J. Gavin, an attorney representing MHPSAS, states, though they are experiencing a staffing shortage, NPFE has "staffed nearly all of our classrooms with teachers with valid certificates or permits in compliance with Michigan law."

Ross, who said NPFE hasn't brought in any new staff, said he doesn't have a direct solution for the system, but tossed around the idea that transitioning back to an independent school district could help.

“I feel like going back to a real public school would be very beneficial, though not easy because I think a lot of the administrative infrastructure I'll call it is not in place for that right now,” Ross said, then going back that public schools can be more appealing to teachers in search of work. “We don't need any more or too much more people coming in and telling us how to teach and what to teach. We need more of us working together to do the teaching. And so I feel like going back to a public school system might be able to attract some more people to stick it out.”

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