When he heard those reports, he said he began to wonder how he could help.
“It may not go a long way, but I feel like with the platform we have and our voice, it can help somehow,” Latimer said.
Before he played wide receiver for the New York Giants, he was a standout in Jefferson Twp. That’s why he said concerns raised by the teachers union president hit close to home.
“I felt so bad when I saw that, it can’t go down like this, and if I have the platform to be able to help and do something, I’ve got to do it while I can,” Latimer said.
Brittney Fries is a fourth-grade teacher and union president.
“I really want the school to understand how frustrated and overwhelmed the teachers are,” she said.
Thomas Jennings, new principal of the roughly 145-student grade seven through 12 high school, said Tuesday that the school is still trying to hire another three teachers and find subs. Sometimes teachers cover two classes of 18 or 19 students at once, or cover classes they’re not certified to teach.
“The biggest frustration is understaffing, especially at the junior high/high school,” Fries said. “They are overwhelmed. They’re drowning. They feel like there is no help as they’re covering too many kids, and they’re not getting an education.”
EDUCATION: State report card: How did your district do?
Longtime Superintendent Richard Gates said in addition to the new principals, the district lost its longtime coordinator for EMIS (the state’s education management information system) and wasn’t able to fill that role until after the school year started. He repeatedly said Tuesday that student schedules have been “a work in progress.”
“I’m an optimistic person. I’d say be patient,” Gates said when asked for a message to concerned families. “We have areas we need to improve, and we acknowledge that. I can’t promise we’re going to be the absolute answer to every parent’s dreams. But we’re working toward that progress.”
Latimer said he’s eyeing his upcoming bye week as a chance to come back to his hometown and organize some sort of event to build some excitement for the school district.
Most important, he said, is to let potential new hires know it’s a good district.
“It’ll bring awareness to people that work at Jefferson, because probably people think ‘Oh, I don’t want to work at a small school,’ but, but that small school did big things for me,” Latimer said.
The Giants’ bye week is Oct. 28-Nov. 12.
Latimer said he’s still looking for ideas from the community on the best way he can help.