EUGENE, Ore. -- 4J Superintendent Gustavo Balderas held a listening session Monday at Howard Elementary School in Eugene.
Around 25 teachers and parents attended “Coffee with the Superintendent,” with many of them voicing their desire to lower class sizes in the school district. Imelda Cortez is a fifth-grade teacher in Eugene School District 4J and she said she is emotionally drained by trying to manage a large class size.
“It’s hard as a teacher to not take work home and to not beat yourself up over not being able to meet needs of everyone,” Cortez said.
Balderas said after 30 years of cuts to public education, he understands these teachers’ frustrations with the district’s limited resources.
“People are tired; people are tired and were hoping to seek some relief. It’s not going to be a tremendous relief, so we've got to manage expectations, but it will be some relief to our schools,” Balderas said.
4J will see some improvements because of at least $12 million of brand-new funding for the 2020-2021 school year granted to them through the Student Success Act. Balderas hinted that managing class sizes will be one of the priorities some of this bulk money will go to. But that money will go to schools that need the most help in the district.
“When I first arrived, we went through a strategic planning process where class size was the number one thing that came from the community,” Balderas said.
Other attendees believe the district has a public relations problem with how some of their lower performing schools are branded. Others say teachers and community members are losing trust in the district. Balderas says that’s not so.
“The teachers we have are great teachers. We have great administrators. We have a great community. So it’s how do we make sure we’re meeting the needs of every school as best as we can and again having faith in the teachers we have and the schools we have,” Balderas said.
Looking forward, the Student Success Act does bring something the last 30 years has taken from public education: hope.
“I think people are hopeful. I think people are hopeful with the corporate tax that we’re going to get these dollars and again that they will make an impact for our kids,” Balderas said.