Longtime Tacoma teacher quits amid strike: 'It was heart wrenching'

Anne Hawkins

TACOMA, Wash. -- A Tacoma teacher that the district touts as one of its very best is resigning due to the ongoing contract struggles.

The ongoing teachers' strike is keeping nearly 30,000 students out of class, and teacher Anne Hawkins predicts she won't be alone in fleeing the district.

"It was heart wrenching," said Hawkins.

The veteran teacher is ready to teach the Tacoma school district administrators a lesson by submitting her resignation.

"I am doing this in the hopes that if one teacher leaves now the district can come to their senses and realize they'll lose hundreds of teachers in the district this spring," she said. "The students will suffer as a result."

Jason Lee Middle School has been her home for her entire 19-year career. The district considers her one of the top teachers.

"Certainly, we hold her in high regard," said Dan Voelpel, spokesperson for the Tacoma School District. "Our team did a video of her this last school year holding her up as one of our 'unforgettable teachers' because of the good work she does with kids."

But Hawkins says the district is top heavy with administrators and a superintendent that makes $291,000 a year.

"The reality is that coming to work as angry as I am about some of the administrator salaries and just the volume of positions that exist at the administrative level, it's not healthy for me," she said. "And if I'm not healthy I can't help my students either."

She hopes to get on with a neighboring school district with higher pay. Others could follow.

"This is what's going to happen is that Tacoma is going to lose its best educators because of this raw deal that we're getting," said fellow teacher Amy Karlstrom.

The district says it just didn't get enough extra money from the state Supreme Court McCleary Decision to stay the top paying district.

"That just wasn't going to be possible anymore," said Voelpel. "But we can be right in the mix. So hopefully we won't lose any more teachers, but realize that's a possibility."

"It's really sad to be losing teachers," said school grandparent Alberta Hawkins. She was out barbecuing for the Jason Lee Middle School teachers. "The money was donated for the teachers. Why can't the teachers get it and get back in there and go to work?"

At this point the district doesn't know of any other resignations and the contract talks continue.

Wednesday will be the fifth day with schools closed.

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