When students at the Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy arrived for their first day of classes in mid-August, they were greeted by substitute teachers, missing textbooks and a class schedule that would force many of them to arrive late for extra curricular activities.
Several District 209 officials said a number of these problems were carried over from the previous school year, but at no point did the board or administrators attempt to rectify the situation.
Students involved in after school activities during the 2005-06 school year arrived late for those events because of problems with the master schedule, according to newly appointed Superintendent Stan Fields. Those scheduling issues were carried over into the current year. Fields said it will cost the district an extra $100,000 in teaching salaries to correct the problem.
“The projected $100,000 in faculty expenses for the math and science academy has not been included in the budget that’s expected to be approved on Sept. 25,” Fields said.
Board President Chris Welch and board member Charles Flowers both pointed to the previous superintendent, Phyllistine Murphy, as the one who should have brought this issue to the board prior to the start of the school year.
“The board looks to the superintendent,” Welch said. “That’s the only person we need.”
Flowers, however accused Welch of conspiring with other administrators to shield these problems from public discussion. Welch denied having any prior knowledge of the problems with the school’s master schedule.
Since taking the job on Aug. 21, Fields said he has worked to address these issues. Fields said he was not given any indication from the board that PMSA had problems with its master schedule or was lacking in staff.
Director of Student Life and Operations for PMSA, Melvin Berry, said that of the 20 teachers at PMSA on opening day, four were substitutes. With two more faculty members taking maternity leave and resigning, Berry now has six substitute teachers at PMSA.
According to Fields, the revised master schedule calls for 23 full-time teachers.
As for the textbooks, administrators said it was anticipated that those materials would not be delivered in time for the first day of school, but are in the building now.
“Most of the issues, as president of the (Parent-Teacher-Student Association), I was aware of,” PTSA President Carl Williams said.
Williams said members of the association had no reason to suspect PMSA’s second year would get off to such a rocky start, but that administrators kept him informed.
Berry, however, said he had no knowledge of a pending teacher shortage.
“I wasn’t aware that the staffing was going to be an issue,” Berry said.
Director of Teaching and Learning Richard Bryant was suspended from his job on Sept. 1 by Fields. Bryant declined to comment.
Both Flowers and Welch said that at no point did the board of education discuss a potential shortage of teachers, problems with scheduling or the late arrival of textbooks. Now that the problems are apparent, Welch said he supports Fields’ decision to “take charge.”
“These changes, based on what the superintendent has told us, are needed,” Welch said.
Beginning the week of Sept. 11, students at the math and science academy will begin school at 7:45 a.m. and end their day at 3 p.m. Also, instead of 80-minute classes, students will follow a block schedule with 90-minute classes, Berry said.