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Teachers, parents in Thornton frustrated with Colorado school district as several educators won't return next year

Teacher describes Adams 12 Schools District administration "toxic"
Teacher describes Colorado school district administration "toxic" 03:07

For the last three years, Woodglen Elementary School in Thornton was considered home to 5th grade teacher Shana Martin.

"It was a family. It was a community," said Martin. "My daughter goes there, my kids have gone there, and it's a school that means a lot to me."

Martin says now she feels like the administration and the Adams 12 Five Star School District have turned their back on teachers like her.

"I was a probationary teacher because I've only been there for less than three years, and probationary teachers they don't really need a reason, they can just non-renew your contract," said Martin. "I was told that I wasn't invited back next year, so that was that."

Martin says despite all the hard work she says she put into the classroom, she and another teacher who were on a probationary period did not get their contracts renewed. They were notified about the decision back in April.

"What I was told is that they were seeking stronger skills of teachers, however when I'm given my reviews, I'm told that I'm an effective teacher and that I have great relationships and great teaching strategies and my scores are good," she said.

However, this is only a fraction of teachers' and families' concerns at the school. According to families, roughly 12 teachers will not be returning in the fall to Woodglen Elementary School.

Parents say three of those teachers were tenured, with decades of experience. They claim that the administration essentially forced them out back in April. Seven more teachers allegedly chose to leave the school following their frustrations with these decisions.

"We also have specialists that are leaving that no longer feel welcomed here, reading support for kids with special needs," said Melissa Ryan, who is a former Woodglen Elementary School parent and now volunteers for the school.

Parents and teachers say a lot of the concerns over changes at Woodglenn started after the school's principal left the campus nearly two years ago, which left an interim principal in the vacant leadership role. The district has not been able to hire a new principal since.

Families and teachers told CBS News Colorado, they feel like a lot of the latest hiring decisions should not have been made while this position remains unfilled.

"Our teachers are frustrated, and our community members are frustrated, and it's understandable with that just amount of instability," said Dave Lockley, president of the District Twelve Educator's Association.

While Lockley cannot go into detail regarding teachers' contracts with the district, he explains the three teachers whose families have raised concerns about choosing to take administrative transfers. He also says not uncommon to see turnover among other staff.

"Many of them are for positive reasons. One's moving up into the administration ranks. Some are moving to take on leadership positions, some are moving to schools that their kids go to," said Lockley. "Rights were followed, and all parts of law and contract were followed, and [the teachers] had the opportunities to have those conversations and be part of those processes and whatnot."

Families say they are worried about how students will be impacted when they enter campus next fall with these latest staffing changes.

"As a parent, for me to say that I feel comfortable sending my child to school with brand new everything, brand new teachers, and getting rid of the heart of our community and school, that that is concerning," said Martin. "It's something that we should be worried about, and other parents are."

"My concern is how can we possibly fill all these vacancies with quality educators that are going to come in and care about our children as much as these teachers did," said Ryan.

A spokesperson for the district told CBS News Colorado they understand parents' concerns and say these decisions were made with the goal of creating the best possible education experience.

The school district issued a statement saying:

Our priority as a district is always to provide students and families with a welcoming and positive school community that fosters strong academic and social growth. Over the past few years, we have received feedback in various forms – including survey results about climate and culture, as well as feedback from school staff – that have made it clear that changes are needed in order to create the best learning environment possible for Woodglen students.We don't take these changes lightly, and we are committed to hiring outstanding staff members to fill vacancies at the school and to hiring a strong long-term leader for the school when we engage in the hiring process early in 2025. We are happy to share that we have hired highly qualified educators to fill all but two vacant teacher positions at Woodglen, and we anticipate having a fully staffed school at the start of the coming school year.

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