Jesse Hagopian, the Garfield High teacher who has led the way in creating an ethnic studies program across the Seattle Public Schools district, is losing his teaching position for next year’s 2019-2020 school year due to budget cuts based on expected lower enrollment at the Central District school.
“I have been displaced from my second home, Garfield High School—the school I went to as a (student) and have taught at for almost a decade,” Hagopian writes in an update posted over the weekend.” With budget cuts and under enrollment—due largely to families being pushed out of Seattle because they can no longer afford to live here—some 13 teachers are being displaced from my school.”
Reassignment of teachers in the public school system, while disruptive and often frustrating for students and families, is a regular occurrence in Seattle’s public school system.
Hagopian says his situation was a little different — he was asked to take on a full-time teaching role but prefers to remain part-time while working on curriculum writing and another book.
CHS reported here on Hagopian’s work as a co-author of Teaching for Black Lives, a book for educators and students that has lessons and curriculum meant to challenge and upend systemic racism in the classroom. “When you’re a young Black person in our society, and you see hierarchies existing, and the power imbalances and the wealth imbalances, it can be very difficult to make sense of that, and can lead to shame and internalized oppression,” Hagopian told CHS about the book. “I hope we can help some of our students avoid those terrible feelings and that trauma with some of these lessons.”
While Garfield is currently preparing for next year without Hagopian and his teaching on ethnic studies, others are also pushing for progress. Zachary DeWolf, District 5 Director for Seattle Public Schools, representing Capitol Hill and the Central District, told CHS earlier this month that he is planning to introduce ethnic studies as a graduation requirement in the district. “We’ll embed native cultures, histories, and contributions into our curriculum, so that we’re not just talking about how colonizers like Yesler and Denny built the city,” DeWolf said.
Meanwhile, Hagopian could be looking for a new teaching gig. “I’m really hoping for a miracle that the funds are found to keep me at Garfield teaching ethnic studies,” he writes. “Know any schools who need a teacher?”
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