‘The kids and I deserve better’: After resignation, Shawnee Mission teacher says lack-luster contract was final straw

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Video of Amanda Coffman's resignation speech has now gone viral.

"There will be no clarifying questions. I don't answer to you anymore," the former Shawnee Mission School District teacher said.

It's just one piece of a heated contract debate in Shawnee Mission schools.

After eight months of failed negotiations, the district recently laid out a unilateral three-year contract. But many teachers are unhappy about what was left out of the deal, leading some to quit.

If you decide to quit your job, it's usually not in the public eye. But for Coffman, more than 200,000 people have now watched her resignation, recorded during Monday night's school board meeting and shared on social media, spreading like wildfire.

"Teaching is like a bad marriage. You never get your needs met, but you stay in it for the kids," Coffman said.

Coffman has taught for 22 years, the past five of those years as a gifted teacher in Shawnee Mission schools. During her time at SMSD, she said she never paid much attention to contract negotiations. But the past year has been very different.

"The kids and I deserve better," Coffman said.

She started to feel the district was being less than reasonable in negotiations.

"It's not about the money," Coffman said.

She said the three-year unilateral deal SMSD recently brought to the table was the final straw.  Teachers wanted promises of more than a pay bump.

"They wouldn't negotiate control over our own professional learning communities. They wouldn't negotiate having some say in the building leadership teams," she said.

"They wouldn't negotiate some consistent reporting for discipline so we could target where kids were struggling and help them."

Many also have expressed concerns about workload and class sizes. District leadership insists those things don't belong in the deal.

"If you're going to address teacher workload, the way to do that is get more teachers, hire more teachers. There are some logistical things to do to accomplish that," said David Smith, SMSD spokesperson.

A long-range plan to tackle teacher work load and the re-structuring needed to accommodate it is due by June, and SMSD said changes will start being implemented in a year.

"It's a great district to work in. We're going to continue to work on that, work on our relationships with teachers and hopefully over time make sure teachers feel that," Smith said.

But Coffman isn't so sure they do. 

She's just hoping her words will echo and bring better talks between the district and teachers in the future.

"Those teachers still deserve respect of a board that will negotiate with them," she said.

Coffman said she knows she's fortunate to be able to take this break, but she'll likely end up back in public education one day. She's grateful for messages of support from people around the world.

Shawnee Mission School District said a substitute is in her classroom for now, as they work toward hiring a permanent replacement.

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