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Upton Sinclair

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To Block Or Not To Block

Finally, after much unnecessary rumble, the schedule for classes at Housatonic Valley Regional High School has been decided by Principal Jose Martinez. He acted in concert with a parent committee who were adamant about improving the education for their children. The new schedule, a compromise, will be a six day rotation schedule over five weeks. The first two days will have four 75 minute blocks so that experience with personalized learning can get started. The next four days will have six 50 minute blocks with less variability for each subject leading to less confusion for the students. The parents were informed of the decision yesterday by Assistant Superintendent Pam Vogel; the teachers were informed by Martinez.

According to a description by Martinez, the new schedule is a combination of old and new. The students will get a mix of long and shorter classes (50 or 75 minutes). Students will experience longer “block” classes for two days. Teachers will gain experience in “teaching in a block” so that training can be practiced. Not all classes are taught in one day giving the students a chance to focus on fewer than eight classes in one day. Each class will be taught four times within each six day cycle. Each day has time for either intervention, PLP, or activity block.

The parent committee met last night and worked through the compromise schedule. The leadership team of the teachers were invited but did not attend. As Vogel said, “The resistance to change and who makes decisions about the school is the issue with which we all have to contend. The schedule has just been a small part of the change that needs to occur for positive things to happen for all students at HVRHS.”

Meanwhile, the teachers’ union, represented by its president Beth Foulds, disagreed with the process in typical illegal fashion and refused to allow the teachers to take part in the final decision. By state law and union contract, the union cannot intervene in administrative decisions. Such an action by the union appears to be a direct violation of the law. The Region 1 Board of Education could reasonably move to decertify the union with state authorities.

In a previous meeting, the parent committee and some members of the leadership team of teachers met, and apparently disagreed. The parents wanted a better education for their children. The teachers wanted no change to the main parts of the schedule, and further research into the subject. Even several emails of suggested changes by the teachers would have reduced student class time. As one Region 1 board member has said, “Delay, delay, and it will go away.”

The important part of this process is the establishment of the autonomy of the Principal to make decisions for Housatonic, a necessary condition for the proper educational functioning of the school and its accreditation.

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