Changes Loom For OHS Class Schedule

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego school board continued down a path Tuesday night that might end with changes to the Oswego High School bell schedule.

Patricia Oughterson, OHS principal, and Brian Hartwell, assistant principal, offered some pros and cons regarding possible changes in the schedule for high school students.

“We looked at the pros and cons of changing it from a nine-period day to an eight-period day,” she told the board.

The example she proposed meant a 10-minute increase in instructional time per period.

There are currently four lunch periods. The plan would cut that down to three.

“The biggest pro for us is the increase in instructional time. We would go from 42 minutes a period or 210 minutes of instruction a week to 51 minutes a period,” Hartwell said.

That equals out to 1,800 minutes of additional instruction time for a year, he pointed out.

“Any change has trade off. The cons are noteworthy in looking at because there is significant trade off in scheduling conflicts and scheduling difficulty,” he said. “There are also impacts on student course selection.”

As the discussion continues, the district will seek input from various stakeholders, including staff, students and parents.

One of the classes would be interrupted by the second lunch period.

“Some people might see that as a con. Some might see it as a pro,” Hartwell said.

There are 53 study halls, which the board agrees is too many, Hartwell continued. The proposal would decrease the number of study halls offered, he said.

One of the goals of the plan is putting more students in classes rather than study halls, he noted.

A decrease in the number of students at OHS also played a big part in the plan to decrease the number of lunches, he said.

“We’re set to be at 1,375 next year. We’re at 1,409 as of today. It looks feasible to go from four periods to three periods,” Hartwell said.

In one of her former districts, Oughterson had a class split by lunch.

“It’s a little difficult for teachers to get used to it, and even the kids. But it is a successful way to do it,” she told the board. “The positive side of it is the teacher does the instructional piece of the lesson then you go to lunch for 25 minutes. They come back and have the second half of the class period and to the application piece of the lesson.”

The pivotal part is the kids actually have more time with the teachers in the classroom, she added.

“It can be done. It just has to be a system that is put into place and we have to find some efficient, effective ways to make it happen,” she said. “I’m very confident that whatever we decide to do, we will do it in the best interests of the students. This is a student-centered schedule.”

“Do you think the cons are overwhelming? Can they be overcome?” asked board president Sam Tripp.

“I think so. I think anything is possible,” Oughterson replied. “Are we going to make everybody happy? Absolutely not.”

“No one likes change,” Tripp interjected.

“No one likes change,” the principal agreed. “People are going to be very protective of their territory. The thing is, we’re not here to protect territory, we’re here to do what’s best for the kids.”

That likely means minor changes to programs, she said.

By the next board meeting they’d like to come back with some opinions from all the participants and share them with the board, Superintendent Bill Crist said.

Plans to change, if any change is decide on, would start in early March to make sure the new schedule could be implemented in September, Crist said.

Board member Fran Hoefer said he was “dumbfounded” by the proposal.

“I have been waiting and wishing for this kind of constructive and logical, wonderful use of our system,” he said. “It makes me almost want to weep.”

“In the end, my hope is that we come together as an educated body and come up with what’s best for the kids,” Oughterson said.


  1. Hopefully this will allow for a large number of teachers to be laid off. OHS is substantially overstaffed. I feel that since teachers will now be working for 5/8 of the day (62.5% of the day) as opposed to the current 5/9 of the day (55.5%), their increased work load should allow 7% of the teachers to be laid off. And actually since one of their free periods is shorter, being that the lunch will be a partial period rather than a full period, they will actually be working for more than 62.5% of the day.

    I think this is a good scenario but the school board needs to take it 1 step further and use it as a way to save on costs and reduce its staff.

  2. I’d like to say a few words in response to the previous comment, offered by Jerry. I wholly object to the characterization that teachers “…will now be working 5/8 of the day,” as opposed to the liberal, presumably cushy “5/9 of the day” instructors at O.H.S. currently work. Anyone who spends ANY kind of time in a high school teachers’ shoes should take umbrage at the idea that we loll around like do-nothings for nearly half of our respective work days. If this were the case, you’d have infinitely more people clamoring for my job. To the best of my intimate knowledge, that is not happening. Given the often unfair scrutiny this profession recieves and the scads of take-home work my vocation produces (how many of YOUR respective professions make such a demand for a comparable wage?), teaching is far-from-easy or some kind of slacker’s domain…

    To clarify: EVERY teacher at O.H.S. works a full NINE (9) periods, not FIVE; in addition to teaching for five-full periods, all teachers are assigned extra duties (i.e. study halls or lunchroom monitoring), expected to PLAN subsequent lessons during one of these purportedly “free” periods, use other “free” time for the extensive amount of grading (English teachers have almost NO “free” time during the day), meet and conference with students, attend to disciplinary matters (phone calls home, referrals, parent meetings, etc.) or complete such necessary but banal tasks as administrative paperwork, curriculum mapping, document copying, etc. I’ve worked any NUMBER of white and blue collar jobs through the years where I’ve seen infinitely MORE time waste than anything that exists at O.H.S. Why do community members persist in this fiction that teachers are grossly overpaid and underworked when it’s simply NOT true?

    Before anyone rushes to the conclusion that simply tightening the temporal noose that much more on teachers will bear clear financial and instructional benefits–PARTICULARLY as this idea is built on the presupposition that teachers have “extra” time that can simply be manhandled because of its ineffectuality and insignificance–he or she should walk a mile in a staff members’ shoes. I can think of NO other profession scrutinized so unfairly by such an unknowing population. Get your facts straight and then chime in; otherwise, your P.R. trivialization of my profession is personally insulting and obviates the kind of SERIOUS discussion that any talk of downsizing by “7%” should necessitate…

  3. William,
    If you are so overworked, how on earth did you find the time to write this lengthy comment during the school day?

    Perhaps you should walk a day in a taxpayers’ shoes, who does not receive the 22% raise that you do. How can we be expected to constantly fund these tax increases? It has always been us that has taken the hit. It’s OCTA’s turn.

    You think you’re overworked, I think I overpay into this disasterous school system. I’ve had enough. You and your colleagues have not done anything close to your share to help this school system reduce its insane financial mess. It’s your turn. I have been forced to pay more each and every year. The voters do not appreciate what OCTA does. We will continue to elect Fran Hoefer and people like him to the board. We will continue to vote “no” on the budget.

  4. Jerry–

    I managed to eat my lunch while typing the rejoinder to your note. I actually thought I was being both pragmatic and economical with my time and energies–forgive me if it seems otherwise…

    …and please don’t get me wrong. Despite the fact that many of those most vehemently anti-teacher in this district presume teachers are somehow immune to the financial burden of tough times or don’t feel the tax hardship, you’re wrong–I live and work in Oswego, do my best to support the local economy, and scratch my head over our economic plight. I rarely have two extra nickels to rub together. But please be a great deal more discerning and careful when identifying problems within the district–not EVERYONE is an enemy, not all aspects of our functioning here are flawed, nor is every teacher an overpaid, underworked tax burden for the “real” citizens out there. I’m a “real” citizen, too. I care deeply for my kids, the community and the economy. I support my own family on a single income that is NOT keeping up with the cost of living, either. If taxes increase, I feel it too. Having grown up in an upstate New York farm family, I often wonder if I’ve really appreciably improved my financial lot in life by becoming a teacher. I do the job because I love it, not because it’s made me rich or inflates my sense of self-esteem. Try not to blame individuals for larger systemic problems that are FAR bigger and more inclusive than just the professional population of OCSC…

    And please read my response to your original note carefully–I did NOT say I was “overworked.” Don’t put words in my mouth. I simply pointed out by citing some specifics that your blanket characterization of a teacher’s work day was not accurate . What would be satisfactory to you–that I work 9/9 periods per day without lunch? Is 8/9 periods enough? Speaking to my own situation, I put in nearly 10-hours/day and I rarely take breaks during work. Am I overworked? Occasionally. I bet you sometimes are, too. But you’ll rarely if ever hear me complaining about it. Is there waste in this district? Certainly. There’s NEVER been a bureaucracy with which I’ve had any dealings that WASN’T (on some fundamental level) inefficient and flawed. But look around your own workplace and scrutinize it with the same bludgeoning gaze you’ve leveled at OCSD. And PLEASE don’t judge all the teachers and staff in this school district as if we were of a single, egalitarian stripe. This is both unfair and I think you know at heart, untrue.

    Vote as you will specific to the budget and Mr. Hoefer. If the latter’s opinions best represent your assessment of the facts and speak to both your heart and mind, fine. All I ask is that you not represent ME in public discourse, particularly because it sounds like you have no more of an idea what it’s like to walk in my shoes than I’m supposedly ignorant of your situation…

    Good luck to you–

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