Allicia Wiggins has been teaching 7th and 8th-grade math at Gray Avenue Middle School in Yuba City and has been with the district for five years.
Wiggins said she chose to publicly resign during Tuesday night’s broadcasted school board meeting to let people know what she says is going on.
“The school board likes to ignore us. They would be extremely happy if we would just shut up and do our jobs. In fact, they’d like to fire us and hire people who would,” she said. “But the district needs to know. They need to know why teachers are leaving. We can send them letters all we want. And they can skim over them. It’s a whole lot harder to ignore a teacher with bright blue hair who’s telling you that you’re breaking her heart and crushing her soul."
ABC10 reached out to the Yuba City School District for comment regarding Wiggins' claims and resignation. Superintendent Doreen Osumi responded, saying:
“We cannot comment on any employee’s personal information, including their assignments or reason for resigning. Any time a valued teacher chooses to leave, it is a loss to their students and school, and to our community.
Our entire community recognizes that this past year has been very difficult for teachers, as it has for students, parents and everyone involved in educating our children. We are proud of the work our teachers and employees have done to make this year of turmoil as peaceful and productive for our students as possible. Their work has been inspiring, and it is deeply appreciated by all of our community.”
Wiggins was initially hired after a school strike and said she felt kind of sheltered at Gray Avenue Middle School at first.
“It was like Gray Avenue was this big family and you didn’t even notice the outside influences because we were just doing our thing,” Wiggins said. “But then I was asked to become a union site rep once I was tenured and that was eye-opening.”
Wiggins said it was the first time since being hired by Yuba City Public Schools that she got to see what the district was like. However, she said it wasn’t until she got moved up to the executive board in the union – becoming the organizing political action committee chair – that she said she got an even closer look behind the curtains of the school district.
“It’s difficult when you know you represent 700 teachers…and then you’re told repeatedly by people at the district office, and the [school] board, that you’re not valuable. That you’re not a priority. It starts to wear on you,” Wiggins said.
Then she said things started to change at Gray Avenue. “Little dominoes,” as Wiggins described it, started to fall leading up to the May 25 school board meeting. She said it started when the school got a new principal. Then led to her being moved from her classroom at the front of the school’s main building to what she described as a foul, smelly, graffiti-covered portable unit at the back of the school.
Eventually, Wiggins said her “math club” – which consisted of herself, two other math teachers, and a special education teacher – was broken up. According to Wiggins, a second-year teacher was nearly run out of the profession and the special ed teacher was reassigned without warning.
“So now they have put me out in a portable that’s disgusting and makes my skin crawl. They’ve taken away my math teacher, my special ed teacher,” she said fighting back tears. “My last straw was when they destroyed my team. I was done.”
Though she says she feels guilty about leaving, Wiggins says she is tired.
“I am a happy, bubbly person and I don’t want to turn into someone who is bitter and angry all the time,” she said. “I hope things get better for Yuba City. I hope that they get better for the teachers, because when they’re better for the teachers then it’s better for the kids.”
Yuba City Teachers Association President Dina Luetgens said Wiggins's story is dramatic but she is not alone.
"Allicia's courageous public statements bring to light multiple examples of the dysfunction and disrespect that have pervaded Yuba City Unified School District. She is not alone in her frustration and disillusionment," said Luetgens in an email to ABC10. "Her statements have resonated with so many teachers of YCUSD."
Luetgens says that while the COVID-19 pandemic has made teaching more challenging, Yuba City teachers rose to the challenge. She said instead of support, teachers were met with disdain from some members of the YCUSD board.
"We need to value and respect teachers. Teachers are leaving Yuba City. Allicia's story is dramatic, but not an isolated case. She brings a voice for the teachers of Yuba City," said Luetgens. "This year, more than fifty teachers have already announced their resignation or retirement."
Luetgens says the teachers' association thanked Wiggins for her courage in bringing focus to the district's issues and hopes that this call for change will be met with much-needed action and positive changes to YCUSD.
"The problems in YCUSD are deeper than this pandemic," said Luetgens. "We need courageous leaders to bring a change."
(Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include comment from the Yuba City Teachers Association.)