OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ A workshop conducted to discuss the pros and cons of possibly moving to a six-period teaching day at the secondary level took a detour.
Members of the teaching staff, administration and students met with the school board and central office administration representatives for more than two hours Wednesday night to discuss the topic.
However, from time to time, the topic shifted to the possibility of reducing the teaching staff.
If each teacher were required to teach six periods, Oswego High School wouldn’t have adequate classroom space, according to OHS Assistant Principal Brian Hartwell who facilitated the committee.
The high school has a total of 71 rooms and 104 teachers, he pointed out.
Many of the rooms are “specialty rooms,” such as six special education rooms and nine rooms designed for art, and labs.
A handful of other rooms have very limited desk space.
That wouldn’t be an issue, according to board member Fran Hoefer.
Implementing a six-period teaching day would allow the district to reduce the number of teachers, Hoefer said.
Board member Dave White said the purpose of the workshop was to look at the pros and cons of changing the schedule, not for looking for ways to lay off teachers.
Board member John Dunsmoor agreed.
He apologized if any of his comments were perceived as looking for staff reductions.
“That was never a thought in my mind,” he said. “I am looking for ways to find more instruction time, ways to make us more efficient.”
A reduction in teachers would make the district more efficient, Hoefer said.
A six-period teaching day would mean six 20-student classes instead of five 25-student classes, added Elijah Tyler, one of the three students on the panel.
“That could save the district money,” he said.
But, if teachers are laid off, it could be detrimental for the students, he said.
A six-period day could take away time the teachers currently have to meet one-on-one with students, he explained.
“We don’t have enough students. We are over-staffed, period,” Hoefer said.
Board member Tom DeCastro said he had heard that some teachers would decrease the number of writing assignments they give out if they have to go to a six-period day.
They would no longer have the time to read and grade all the students’ papers, he said.
A true professional would find a way to get things done, Dunsmoor said.
“There are still only 24 hours in the day,” DeCastro replied.
He urged the board to look at the district’s mission statement (to provide the best possible education).
“I can’t support anything that takes away from the students,” DeCastro said.
“We have become inefficient, cumbersome and wasteful,” Hoefer said. “The whole point of tonight was to find ways to do more with less, to find a way to become more efficient. That benefits everybody Ã¢â‚¬â€œ except for a few people who get laid off, temporarily.”
He said there was a massive resistance against any kind of efficiency move because it might create a bunch of people fighting to the death to prevent somebody who’s unnecessary getting laid off, “and that scares the pants off of me!”
The state education commissioner says districts have to do more with less, Hoefer continued.
“I’m listening to the commissioner. What he’s telling us is the truth. And that statement is not clouded by the fear of getting laid off,” he said.
“What we’re doing is not 100 percent, we can improve,” said Sam Tripp, board president. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how we move forward on this or where we go, but hopefully it will be in the right direction.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The workshop was “an outgrowth of discussions that have taken place over the three or four months about possibilities of assigning a sixth teaching assignment for staff members at both the high school and middle school,” according to Superintendent Bill Crist.
The board took no action regarding the issue.