School Board Continues To Debate Mentoring Program

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego Board of Education Tuesday night tabled a resolution that would have rescinded the resolution to accept the NYS Mentor Teacher-Internship program for the 2011-2012 school year.

“This program is essential for our non-tenured teachers’ growth, support and success,” said Lynda Sereno, a speaker during the public session. “The fact is that those internship programs are mandated. There’re supposed to be in place.

However, some board members are concerned about the part pulling educators out of the classroom for mentoring and how the grant funding could be used.

“We should really take some time to get a look at this,” said board member Tom DeCastro. “Therefore, I would like to see this motion tabled so that we can get ourselves around it before we make any rash decisions.”

The motion was approved; discussion on the matter, however, continued for almost an hour.

Board members were also concerned that under the program, teachers would have to use 10 percent of their instructional time to take part in the mentoring.

“By law we have to provide mentoring programs,” Cathy Chamberlain, assistant superintendent for curriculum, pointed out.

“We’re talking about releasing teachers from 20 instructional days to be taught to be teachers? What kind of planet did that come from?” board member Fran Hoefer wanted to know.

As part of the teachers’ contract, that is in there, Chamberlain explained.

“We negotiated an agreement to mentor . . . we did not negotiate this program,” Hoefer said. “This is not the mentoring program. This is in addition to ‘the’ mentoring program. There is a difference.”

“If we turn this grant down, rescind it, we still have to provide the mentoring. It means we have to pay for it out of our own pocket,” board member Sam Tripp said.

Hoefer reiterated his issue with it is pulling teachers out of the classroom.

“We’re not pulling teachers out of classrooms to teach them how to teach. They know how to teach. There are problems that come up, especially if you are a first-year teacher that cannot be taught. That’s why the mentor program helps them through problems and things of that nature,” DeCastro said.

“I’m not arguing with that, Tom,” Hoefer replied.

“But, when you say things, you slant things to make it sound far worse than what it is,” DeCastro said.

“Some times you need a little dramatics to get something fixed,” Hoefer said.

“This is so important, especially for new teachers,” added board member Jim Tschudy.

Nobody is against teachers being mentored, board president John Dunsmoor pointed out.

“The discussion was that we all went to school and the days we had subs, we didn’t have as much instructional time,” he said. “We want to supply as much professional development or other things outside of (the classroom) and we’re willing to talk about paying extra for it. We want to look at different ways of getting that part of the education done.”

“The whole intent is to try and keep teachers in front of students as much as possible,” Tripp agreed. “(It is all) in the contract. We need to honor this. We need to honor that contract.”

“If the board has to put some things in place to demand change, I’m not saying we tell all our administrators how to change everything, I’m just saying we need change. We can’t do it the same way we’ve been doing it the past 10 years. Because we’re going the wrong way,” Dunsmoor said.

If the teachers can be pulled away from other duties for mentoring, then that should be done, Hoefer suggested.

“At the last (board) meeting, I heard, I believe from the board loud and clear that there is interest in keeping teachers in the classroom,” Superintendent Bill Crist said. “As a result of that, I directed the administration to curtail the amount of professional development that is offered during the school day. I implemented that last week.”

Having a quality teacher in front of a group of students is the optimal way to provide an education, Crist noted.

“How we can get that done, within the parameters that we have to work with, is the million dollar question,” he added.

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