WARWICK, RI — Concerns were raised during Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting about reports that not all teachers are teaching a full day or are available for students when they should be.
These concerns were brought to the committee by Chairman Karen Bachus, who said she’s received complaints from parents and asked the administration what is going on and what can be done to fix it.
“We’ve had a lot of complaints about that. It’s concerning,” she said. “We have not cut anybody’s salary as far as I know. And so we’d like to know a little bit more.”
Bachus said the complaints she calls “very concerning” include teachers not teaching a full day’s schedule and only having office hours a half-hour a week. She also said she’s seen copies of schedules that she says are “embarrassing.”
“We have parents calling that their children are getting two classes a day if we’re lucky. If the teacher shows,” she said.
Wendy Amolotte, Warwick Public Schools director of curriculum and instruction, told the committee there is variation across the district of how many different teachers are hosting different amounts of Google Meets “At your direction, we can tighten that up across the district,” he said.
“I know one parent called me today and said her child had no outreach from any teacher at all today and was very discouraged,” Bachus said. “There was no Google Meet, there was no morning meeting, there was no nothing so I don’t know what happened. I’m also hearing from secondary schools. It appears there are some serious issues.”
Lynn Dambruch, director of elementary education, said the elementary school principals are jumping in and out of Google Meets throughout the day, just as they did during in-person learning when they would walk in and out of classrooms to see the teaching and learning that is happening. “I think that would really help with equity in the schedules,” she said.
On the elementary level teachers are teaching a little over six and three-quarter hours a day, according to Dambruch. On the secondary level, there are typically five 48 minute periods, plus a required advisory period, according to William McCaffrey, director of secondary education.
Bachus said that is certainly not happening at the secondary level.
McCaffrey broke it down. “You have approximately 25 hours of face time instruction with an instructor in four days. This does not include the additional requirement of five hours for instruction time for materials at the middle school level as well as six hours of instructional time each at the high school level,” he said. “We’re pretty close on the time between the two when you look at them discounting travel time [between classes]. It’s pretty close to what we are offering students. Students may not be taking advantage of the instruction time we are putting forward but it is what we are offering.”
“Are you aware your teachers are doing office hours for one-half hour per week?” Bachus asked McCaffery. Bachus said this was told to her by a principal.
“That’s not true,” McCaffery replied. “For each class, there is an office hour in each level of the schedule at the middle and high school level. They are doing more than a half-hour. For each period they have an office period. They are not limited to one 30 minute period. If they are doing that it needs to be investigated and adjusted accordingly.”
“I don’t want to have to bring these things up at a time like this, but we haven’t cut anybody’s salary and I think we should be teaching a full day may be abbreviated but a full five or six classes or what have you per day in some sort of A/B rotation or something so all of our kids are being educated appropriately or as appropriately as possible,” Bachus said. “This is very disappointing what I’m hearing.”
McCaffery said part of the plan was to remain flexible and that flexibility would come into play now. “Part of the plan was to remain flexible if we need to make adjustments and obviously if there’s criticism from the community we can adjust,” he said.
Bachus said it’s embarrassing for her when parents send her a schedule showing class one, class two and then nothing after 11 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. and then office hours where the teacher isn’t there. “Enough people are contacting me that I know there is some truth to it, especially after speaking with someone in the administration who is a principal or a vice principal. We can do better and we have to do better.”
Bachus asked the administration to have an update for the committee next week.
In other business:
Supt. Philip Thornton “reluctantly” announced the resignation of the district’s Chief Budget Officer Anthony Ferrucci effective Dec. 31, calling Ferrucci’s time here exemplary, taking the district through some difficult financial times and that he would be sorely missed.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege serving the Warwick Public Schools’ community and doing the best we can for our students which is what my whole focus has been as long as I’ve been here and I won’t sway from that,” Ferrucci told committee members. “And I’m here to assist with the transition and I’m here to provide counsel going forward so no matter what happens and transpires, my phone is always available for conversation. Thank you for the opportunity to serve the city of Warwick. It’s been a real privilege.”
The School Committee also authorized the purchase of up to 200 air purifiers to be used in staff areas, guidance areas and any other area where they are needed throughout the city’s schools.