EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – Sunset Elementary has seen 11 employee resignations since the beginning of the 2022-2023 school and at least four of those were teachers.
Heather Steinmetz has a son in kindergarten at Sunset Elementary.
Steinmetz said this school year has been troublesome from the get-go.
As the school year began, Sunset Elementary began with a program Steinmetz called “Color.”
Steinmetz said the program allowed for students to transfer between five teachers to get a feel for each one.
She said her son didn’t have a permanent teacher for the first three to four days because of this.
On September 26, Steinmetz received an email from Sunset Elementary Principal Michelle Wartley saying another teacher is being added to that list, and so her son will be moving into that new teacher’s class.
Come November 4, Steinmetz received another email from Principal Wartley explaining her son’s teacher had resigned nearly two weeks prior on October 25.
“Fortunately, we have a long-term substitute that has agreed to be the consistent substitute teacher in your child’s classroom while we interview candidates searching for the best fit for this kindergarten class,” said Principal Wartley to Steinmetz in an email.
Since around that time, Steinmetz has constantly asked what is going on and brought up her concerns to Principal Wartley as well as other Edmond Public Schools employees.
Most of the emails News 4 received weren’t replied to.
Come January 9, another email from Principal Wartley said this kindergarten class will have a permanent teacher starting the following day.
“Please be assured your child is in great hands!,” stated Principal Wartley in that email.
Six days after that new teacher’s first day, she resigned.
“This is very unexpected and not the situation we would like for our students. With this abrupt change, we will immediately be searching for a teacher. In the meantime, we are reassigning current Sunset staff to oversee this classroom,” explained Principal Wartley in an email to parents on January 16.
Steinmetz told KFOR she was told by Sunset Elementary staff that substitute teacher was supposed to be there until February, but she too quit four days later.
Steinmetz emailed school district officials with her concerns to which they confirmed on Friday her child’s classroom has seen four teachers since the beginning of the school year and that her concerns are valid.
Another mom, Tara Martin hasn’t seen her son’s class go through nearly as many teachers.
However, Martin claims her son’s teacher has also recently resigned.
“These little things do add up and it’s terrifying as a parent to not know what’s going to happen with your child,” said Martin.
Martin told KFOR her son fell in love with school because of his original teacher, but she has noticed her son’s behavior towards school has changed because of a teacher switch.
“He was distraught. He didn’t really quite understand it,” added Martin.
She said she never received an email about her son’s teacher resigning or who would take her place.
“There’s no communication. I’ve emailed the principal, I’ve done this. I am fed up. My son needs consistency. These children need consistency. What is going on?,” explained Martin. “We have two kindergarten classes that are severely being affected by this, and all we get is ‘We’re doing our best,’ ‘We’re putting someone in there.’ If this was a more predominantly white, rich school in Edmond instead of a minority school, this stuff would not be happening.”
Martin said these issues are not only causing heartbreak for her son, but to see him as upset as he is also tears her a part.
“I’ve been an emotional wreck because of it. My anxiety levels have been higher, which makes me not as patient with my children. It’s heartbreaking and devastating trying to figure this all out, him asking me questions and me not being able to give them to him because I don’t have the answers,” said Martin.
News 4 reached out to Edmond Public Schools about their concerns to which they replied in a statement, “The kindergarten issues at Sunset Elementary were created by unprecedented enrollment in that grade level, difficulty finding early elementary educators, and the unexpected resignations of two [kindergarten] teachers. This created disruption for some students and parents. “
That disruption has also led to Steinmetz’s son’s class receiving a note in their folder Thursday.
The note explains how report cards provide guardians with clear information about what the school wants students to learn as well as what students should be able to do as a result of what they’ve learned.
However, “It has come to our [Edmond Public Schools] attention that the second nine-weeks progress was not reported upon. Instead of filling the grade card with scores that may not be a true representation of student performance, we have opted to omit this period and begin reporting again at the end of the third nine-weeks,” the note to kindergarten families said.
Steinmetz received the note, but Martin didn’t.
Steinmetz feels blind sided and now questions where her son stands academically.
“District and site staff worked diligently and creatively to fill the teacher openings, and are providing classroom assistants, tutors, and resources to help close any potential gaps in student learning,” said EPS in a statement.
EPS went on to say they’re actively working to resolve these issues.
In the meantime, both Martin and Steinmetz are considering withdrawing their kids from Sunset.
“Do I pull my kid?,” asked Martin. “Do I keep them in a school where we don’t know if he’s going to have a teacher next week?”
Steinmetz said, “If it keeps going down this path then we will have to transfer.”
News 4 asked EPS how many of the 11 employees that have resigned are teachers.
EPS didn’t provide News 4 with that information before the publication of this article, but they have confirmed they’re not all teachers.