By John Brice
Protesters from the LaFayette Teachers Against Displacement local activism group made their voices heard loud and clear at the Chambers County Board of Education meeting which took place on Wednesday, September 27th of 2023. Dressed in t-shirts displaying the phrase “Good Trouble” with the classic black and gold LaFayette color scheme, the protesters carried signs and chanted slogans to bring attention to what they understand to be unfair treatment by the district regarding decisions that are negatively impacting children and their families in the area. Once the CCBOE meeting was underway the first item on the agenda was an appearance by LaFayette High School Counselor LaWendy Willis.
Willis began her time by stating “Good afternoon Superintendent Chambley, President Finch, board members and our community members and stakeholders. Thank you for allowing me to address the board this afternoon. Public education is an institution that is formed to provide the best possible education for all children, no matter their race or financial status. The funding is not provided by an individual, but from the taxes of all the people through the local, state and federal governments so that teachers, staff and other resources can be acquired to help children succeed. Public education should not be about political gain but about the success of every pupil. We, the educators, parents and community members are present because we would like to see Chambers County School District acquire competent, certificated educators so the students can have a quality education.”
She went on to continue “There is a difference between teachers who studied and trained in education in college and teachers who have emergency certifications. Teacher educators are trained to create engaging lessons, trained to work with all students and trained to improve academics and behaviors. When you employ adults who come from the workforce or from the private sectors without providing the necessary professional development, challenges are more than likely to be present to the adults and the students in the classroom. Because this population of teachers are not familiar with the educational curriculums and the social and emotional behaviors of children.”
Summarizing her concerns, Willis asked “What can we as a community do to assist you in hiring qualified educators? Can we help with the recruitment? What does your recruitment process look like? Is Chambers County School District attending college recruitment fairs? Are the supplemental funds like Title I used to acquire certificated teachers? Are you offering sign on bonuses with the Title I funds? Who is hiring the educators for the schools? Is it the principal or is it the superintendent? Is our hiring process ethical? We are extremely concerned about the numerous educators who are not certified.”
Questions posed by Willis were in reference to ongoing concerns raised in the community over the district’s hiring practices, with accusations of favoritism and nepotism causing qualified teaching candidates to be passed over in favor of less qualified applicants being awarded jobs due to their personal connections to Superintendent Chambley and Assistant Superintendent David Owens according to protestors. Unacceptably high turnover rates amongst teachers as well as potentially retaliatory transfers of teachers from LaFayette to Valley have also been cited by the protesters as evidence of a lack of transparency and professionalism within the district’s leadership.