Sherwood Staff Cuts Leaves Teachers Struggling

by Sydney Wiser ‘23

Before the 2022-2023 school year, Sherwood lost two dozen staff members, leaving many classes overcrowded and many teachers overwhelmed. Some teachers left on their own while others were involuntarily transferred.

Transfers are common within the teaching profession and are often a result of reduced enrollment or staffing needs at other schools. Typically, MCPS makes determinations about staffing numbers for departments based on the projected enrollments in courses. If they determine that staff members need to be cut in a department, the teachers who have worked the shortest length of time in MCPS are chosen to be transferred. Teachers who are involuntarily transferred are guaranteed a job within MCPS.

However, what was unusual about last year’s transfer process was the number of teachers who were involuntarily transferred and the short notice some were given prior to the 2022-2023 school year. Some transfers occurred as late as August 2022 according to Elected Faculty Representative (EFR) Caitlin Thompson, who is one of the two teachers responsible for representing teachers in Sherwood’s leadership meetings.

“Normally, transfers happen in March. Teachers who are leaving have lots of time to plan and prepare for a new school. Teachers who are filling in for them have lots of time to plan and prepare to teach new content,” explained Thompson. “This year, no one had that time. Teachers got new classes a week before the school year began. That’s really stressful.”

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), which acts as the Montgomery County teacher’s union, also expressed frustrations about the timing of the transfers as it violated policies in the MCPS teacher’s agreement. Teachers were supposed to be notified by their principals about their transfers no later than February 28 and the MCEA was supposed to have been sent a list of the staff members who were going to be transferred by the third Friday in March.
As a result of these staff cuts at Sherwood, class sizes have grown this school year. Some elective classes have 40 to 50 students in one period. Theater 1 and Advanced Theater classes were merged into one class with 45 students. Show Choir, which is a merging of four classes (Chorus 1, Chorus 2, Jazz Choir, Show Choir), has 51 students. Such large classes make it difficult for teachers to focus on individual students and make grading and providing tailored feedback take longer.

Choir teacher Johnathan Dunn explained that Choruses 1 and 2 were entry-level choruses to help students prepare for higher-level choruses like Chamber Singers, Show Choir, and Jazz Choir. Without these introductory classes, students with different levels of musical experience are mixed together and the director is responsible for tailoring class content to meet the needs of students with a wide scope of abilities.

Another effect of these larger classes is that fewer elective classes can be offered now that elective teachers need larger numbers of students to express interest. “If we only get 20 kids to sign up for a class, that class might not happen because we are supposed to be serving classes of 35,” said Thompson, who teaches AP Human Geography. “For teachers, it can mean losing a beloved elective class … I would be devastated if [AP Human Geography] didn’t run, but I know that with these new class size requirements, that’s always a possibility.” Popular electives like AP Music Theory and AP Comparative Government were lost this year due to the smaller Sherwood student population and the larger class sizes.

As teachers navigate through short-notice transfers, large class sizes, and loss of electives, Thompson encourages students to be empathetic towards their teachers who have experienced a difficult past year. “Please try to show your teachers some grace; everyone is doing their best.”