SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Students across the Bay Area returned to classrooms this week, but a shortage of teachers in the San Francisco Unified School District left some educators with less than 24 hours to prepare a classroom curriculum, according to a press release from United Educators of San Francisco (UESF).

UESF is the teacher’s union that represents teachers and paraprofessionals across SFUSD. According to an announcement on the union’s website, as of Aug. 10, there were, “100 certificated vacancies and over 150 paraeducator vacancies at school sites,” across San Francisco. This shortage meant that Teachers on Special Assignment would be responsible for the coverage.

Teachers on Special Assignment, or TSAs, are responsible for “a myriad of jobs to support school sites, classrooms, and programming,” says UESF President Cassondra Curiel. However, this year, many TSAs were informed less than a week before the start of school that they would be responsible for an entire classroom by themselves.

“Some folks found out only 24 hours before or the day of the shift,” Curiel said of the announcement. This left TSAs scrambling to develop curriculums and organize classrooms—preparations that often take months.

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According to UESF, teacher turnover has been drastic for a decade. Three out of every five professionals who choose to become teachers turn over and later leave the field, according to Curiel. Some refer to the situation as a teacher shortage, but UESF disagrees.

The union’s position on this is that there is no teacher shortage, there is a crisis of professional pay and disrespect for our profession.

UESF President, Cassondra Curiel

Curiel says that public perception of teachers has suffered as a result of the “narrative that was coopted by certain political parties,” which pitted the public against educators and their unions. Though the union says professionals working as educators are struggling with this backlash, they are still doing all they can to support students.

“We know our relationships with our students and their families are great. We love our colleagues…We are working hand in hand with students every single day,” Curiel tells KRON4. However, the lack of public support that educators receive does have a detrimental impact on professional health, according to Curiel. 

When asked if the last-minute TSA changes could negatively impact students, Curiel says it can, “If we don’t respect and honor educators it has direct results in the classroom.”