This was sent to Region One Report today…..if true statistics, makes you wonder what Mr. Harnett was talking about… 21

This was sent to Region One Report today…..if true statistics, makes you wonder what Mr. Harnett was talking about… (not having kids for teachers to teach, especially if there are MORE students this year than last!)

The student enrollment at HVRHS at the end of last year was 408, I believe. Not more than 410, I’m sure. The student enrollment today is 433.images (2)

21 comments

  1. Honestly, this makes me sick to my stomach to see. I can’t believe that all along we were being told that having the teachers leave was because this coming school year the enrollment would “only drop by a few” and then in years to come “dramatically drop” and yet, instead it has actually increased substantially. Many friends of mine who started classes on Monday at Housy have already said that they can tell some classes will just be horrible because there are WAY to many students per class. One friend quoted that one of her classes “has over 30 students and therefore, the teacher can’t answer all of our questions and we can all already tell that this won’t end well.”

  2. There were many of us who publicly expressed concern about this plan to the Board right away. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be done at the March 20th Board meeting when Mr. Harnett brought the plan forward because, conveniently, the Board does not have a comment period at the end of their meeting; likely a plan put in place by the superintendent and the then Board chair, Philip Hart. Just another attempt, it seems, to silence anyone who may bring forth a legitimate concern. For public comment on this matter it had to wait until their next meeting on April 1st. It seems clear that the plan was the superintendent’s idea given her prepared statement at the beginning of the March 20th meeting about “right-sizing” the high school faculty and the fact that no principal in his or her right mind would suggest such a dramatic reduction in staff at the last minute – a week and a half before the hearing. Further, the proposed spending plan for the 2013-2014 fiscal year had consensually been approved without these reductions at the Board’s March 4th meeting. At the March 20th meeting Mr. Harnett said he was asked/told to get these figure at the very beginning of his remarks and he mentioned it again as he was making his remarks. After he finished, he passionately defended keeping the positions. Yet 24 hours later, unexplained, he reversed his position. Anyone who thinks that Matt Harnett left the school system because of the failure/s of the budget is wrong. When Patrick Sullivan of the Lakeville Journal personally spoke to him this is what he told Patrick in a phone interview Monday, August 19: “Harnett said he reassessed his position at HVRHS when “it was plain to me that my vision didn’t match theirs.” I guess you could argue to whom he was referring, but there is really only one entity that would intimately be involved with the vision of the school and that would be those who are in a position of educational leadership – the superintendent and her assistant. The majority of the Board has hasten this demise because they consider nothing other than what they are told by these two and are routinely asked to make critical educational related decisions without having the opportunity to thoroughly review and consider the pros and cons and the long term implications and consequences of decisions they make. It doesn’t help that apparently, there is individual contact between certain Board members and the the RSSC administration, for the sole purpose of having everything in place without proper thought and discussion among all Board members before discussion occurs at the meetings. In addition, the majority of the members generally are unfamiliar with their own policies, bylaws, the Freedom of Information Act and the most basic tenants of parliamentary law. Until you have a majority of the Board who is willing to see that the RSSC administration works for them and not the other way around nothing will change. In the meantime, the staffing decisions made by the Board, which seems to have been forced on the former principal by the superintendent is making our kids’ educational experience less than stellar. And guess what? No one that I know of objected to approved March 4th proposed spending plan. The problem of the budget defeats has been created by the superintendent. Had the Board moved forward with its March 4th proposal the budget would have passed on the first vote by an overwhelming majority!

  3. I may be wrong but I do believe that when the guidance counselors go see the 8th graders about their schedules their freshmen year, the guidance counselors make schedules for the students who already know they will not be going to Housy for high school. I know that Mr. Harnett was trying to change this because it is pointless to include students who are not going to be students at Housy but could this possibly be the reason why the numbers look a little strange? Not trying to defend anyone or criticize anyone else’s claims, just trying to get all the possibilities out there. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    • We never counted 8th graders we knew were not coming, but there were some who were “maybe” that were, but that was about 5 or so. Some of the difference could be from new registrations (people who moved into the district). Still, on average, people moving in or out should be roughly the same, so there are often withdrawals to offset those numbers. Maybe they weren’t counting some senior failures who now need to return? One thing they never consider is the number of late enrollments of students who struggle at private schools. We typically added some numbers during the school year, which could also contribute to classroom overcrowding. I suspect an estimate of overly low numbers may have been to scare the community into thinking that action was necessary to “encourage enrollment” by implementing new strategies favored by the administration, such as the iPads, and new administrator positions. Fortunately, the public is smarter than they thought and smelled the BS a mile away.

  4. I think the last year Gretchen Foster was principal, the superintendent demanded that she do the schedule when it was previously done by, I think, Judi Moore (since retired) in the guidance department. That move was just another example of the superintendent and/or her assistant interfering in the day-to-day operation of the high school as directing the principal to do the scheduling is usurping the authority of the principal to make those sorts of decisions as the principal and in consultation with the administrative team at the high school. The deadline the superintendent imposed on Foster to finish the schedule by any standard was arbitrary and capricious. When Foster was unable to meet the deadline the superintendent used it against her, refusing to give the Board any background about how scheduling was normally done, despite being asked by at least one Board member. Then the superintendent without the knowledge or consent of the Board and I believe the rank and file in the teachers’ union hired someone on the staff to complete the scheduling task and got the ok for the extra pay for extra duty after she had signed the document hiring the staff person. That document should not have been signed by her, but by the chairman of the Board on the Board’s behalf because the agreement is between the Board of Education and the individual or union and not between the superintendent and the individual. I’m not sure, but I think that same staff person did the scheduling for the following school year and the year after, but this year I was under the impression from what Matt Harnett repeatedly said that he was doing the schedule because of the staff reductions that it looks like he was forced to make by the superintendent. Obviously, staff reduction has been disastrous given that what was proposed and approved by the Board lacked thoughtfulness and thoroughness. I may be wrong about Harnett doing the scheduling, but that was the impression I got. It might be true that the guidance counselors make sure each incoming freshman is taking the right courses, but I don’t think any of them are part of the scheduling. I don’t know how much, if any experience, Harnett had in doing this sort of thing, but I do know that there were conflicts for kids taking advanced foreign language and other advanced courses with things like band and other arts related courses. That did not seem to happen routinely when the other people were doing the scheduling. The other unfortunate ramification of the reduction of staff is that there are not enough sections of certain classes to fulfill all who wished to take them, as well as having inequity in classes sizes for the same class eg: 7-10 kids in one section as opposed to over 20 kids in another section of the same class title. Harnett also had the anticipated enrollment wrong as he was predicting about 414 students and I understand there is more like 434 enrolled, which is more kids than they had this past school year. That erroneous number may not be Harnett’s fault based on what he knew at the time, but that is quite a lot to be off by.

    • Typically, I do believe, it is the principal’s responsibility to make the schedule because I know Dr. Fellows had been making it but people believed that he was making it in the favor of certain department heads. The principal should be the one making the schedules.

    • The superintendent did NOT get an okay to sign the memo of agreement giving Scott Felllows, aka AERON WATSON, and others a huge amount of taxpayer dollars to do the schedule. That was one of the issues I raised at the special meeting Aug 20. 2010, when more than 125 people showed up for a meeting then Chairman Judge Manning in collaboration with the superintendent scheduled for 11 a.m.! I saId at the meeting that the superintendent has NO AUTHORITY to enter into contracts OR expend public money without BOARD AUTHORITY. I made a motion for the board to ratify the MOA she had signed and the payments she had made because those actions had already taken place. I made another motion that the superintendent must get board approval to enter into MOAs. Has she entered into any unauthorized MOAs since then? I don’t know. I found out recently, however, that she has signed contracts since then, despite being told she has no authority to do so.
      –Gale Courey Toensing

  5. The common thread among most of the comments is clear enough: the superintendent is responsible for everything that has ever gone wrong–and ever will go wrong–at HVRHS.

    And though she’s failed in many, many regards, it is this kind of thinking that allowed the principal to leave the high school in such a state of disrepair. Whether it was he or the superintendent who was behind the disastrous staffing cuts is impossible to determine (in every conversation I had with him he took full ownership of decision). I suspect a certain board chair was hotter for the plan than anyone else.

    Of course, none of that matters now. Things are in rough shape and they need to be righted. Staff cuts withstanding–and they are certainly a major factor–let’s be clear whose disaster this is. It was the principal who left sections laughably imbalanced, so that some rooms are bursting beyond capacity while others are practically empty. It was the principal who broke up the highly successful humanities English/Social Studies sections in the freshmen year, despite assurances to the co-teachers that he would not do so. It was the principal who arbitrarily decided to eliminate academic levels in courses such as Forensic Science to cover the fact that the building was grossly understaffed. It was the principal who informed a Tech-Ed teacher that he would have to be part time due to low enrollment, when in fact he’d bumped students who had registered for fall courses into the spring, where they would not be noticed until the damage had been done. It was the principal who told the public, time and again, that the average class sizes in core content areas would be between 15 and 18, when they are well into the 20s. It was the principal who told the public that, when developing their staffing plans, department chairs counted every student who could potentially come to the high school and ignored attrition due to private schools (this was NEVER the case). It was the principal who told the public that the faculty had chosen to switch to PowerSchool, when it had never been provided the opportunity to voice an opinion on the matter (and just look at the GPA mire that switch created).

    Now that he’s gone, the responsibility to fix what’s broken has shifted. Not to the acting principal, who is doing just fine, but to the central office administrators and the board of education. To date, their arrogance and belligerence has been staggering. If they’re unwilling to acknowledge the mistakes they’ve made, and the poor judgement of the individual they entrusted to lead the school, then the budget deserves to fail until the situation is righted.

    As an aside, it’s true that a principal should be the one building the schedule. All Region One needs to due is hire a principal who is capable of actually building a schedule. The timeline that Dr. Foster was unable to meet was literally months later than had been the norm for decades. Put simply, she was never going to get there. Don’t think it’s that hard a process? Just check out the ace job Mr. Harnett did with this year’s schedule. Better yet, ask a teacher about the job he did with it. ANY teacher will do.

    Oh, and Mr. Parsons, I hate to tell you this, but no amount of Internet griping is going to get rid of Dr. Fellows. He’s a master teacher and, as such, will be there until he’s good and ready to leave. Sleep tight with that thought in your head, sweetheart.

    • Not sure who you’re referring to in saying, “I suspect a certain board chair was hotter for the plan [to cut teachers] than anyone else,” but I’m looking at the minutes of the March 20, 2013 special meeting and am reminded that FOUR board members voted to cut the teaching positions — Cornwall, Kent, Sharon and North Canaan. Only Salisbury and Falls Village (me) voted against what I still consider to be an ill-conceived and badly executed initiative on the part of the superintendent. And the board majority went along with it without any substantive analysis or discussion. Shame!
      –Gale Courey Toensing

  6. I disagree with a few things in the previous two posts. For as many years as I can remember the principal DID NOT build the schedule. Someone either in the guidance department or as you indicate, Dr. Fellows, from the math department had that duty. As far as I know it was only the last year that Dr. Foster was here that she had anything at all to do with the schedule and she was directed by the superintendent to do it in the very late spring, hence the lateness in building it. Why was that done? Not too hard to figure out as far as I’m concerned. Dr. Fellows then completed the schedule that year and continued to do it, as far as I know until this spring when Mr. Harnett decided he was going to do it. Again why? If the previous poster is correct in his statements, it seems rather obvious. As far as I’m concerned there is no good reason for the principal do the scheduling when it is the guidance department that has a much better knowledge of the students, the courses they need and others that they might want or need to take as electives to move on to college or other types of training. It would only be logical that part of their training would include this type of task and that they would have the hands on knowledge to make it work.

    I can’t disagree with the observations that the previous poster made about Mr. Harnett. He/she seems to know about them intimately, but this begs the question, if all of what has been said is true, how he was hired in the first place? Like or not the buck stops with the superintendent and her assistant and the both of them are, as far as I’m concerned, as culpable as Mr. Harnett in the “state of disrepair” at the high school. Where was their educational leadership? Why does the superintendent allow her assistant to continue to be a negative, disrupting and interfering force at the high school and how did that effect Mr. Harnett? How could a superintendent be so uninformed as not to know the actual consequences of a last minute staff reduction, initiate it or support it, whatever the case and not think that there would be hell to pay for that bit of recklessness? Further, when the consequences became clear how could she do nothing to get the train back on the right track? The Board of Education has responsibility for what has happened as well, as most seem to take the superintendent’s word as gospel and rarely deliberate on the consequences of their decisions/actions in a thoughtful and reasoned way. If the Board continues to be the hand-maiden of the superintendent and refuses to address her short-comings on the issues then nothing will change, which is exactly what I think will happen until she is gone.

  7. Wondering if the scheduling is part of the principals contract?
    What is a manageable number of students per class? How many are in each class right now? Does the teacher contract specify a number of student per class?
    410 student to 433 would that justify 5 teaching positions?
    When is the official enrollment calculated?
    Laurie Perotti

      • From the contract at http://www.region1schools.org/site/files/HSTeacher1215.pdf
        The maximum number of students at the high school for academic classes is between 20-27. “It is understood that some deviation from these figures may be necessary in extreme cases for a period not to exceed 30 days. In these cases, the teacher involved will be consulted prior to the scheduling of additional students.”
        That last sentence is poorly written for a legal document because it doesn’t define “consult” or the circumstances surrounding the consultation. Who will consult the teacher and in what circumstance? If it’s a terrible idea to have 30 students in a particular class, does the teacher have the right to say so and what weight will be given to his or her expertise in judging that? Does the teacher have the right to veto the additional students? If not, then the language should probably be “informed” rather than “consulted.”
        The official enrollment is calculated as of October 1 each year.
        However, each town’s annual share of the total cost of the three-part budget is based on the official enrollment as of October 1 the previous year for obvious accounting purposes (that is, you couldn’t know how many students will be enrolled ahead of time).
        As for the “manageable” number of student per class, I think that has to depend on the teacher, the students and the subject, but I believe there is a general consensus among educators that the most effective teaching happens in small classes — and I think common sense would support that. This 2008 story from USA Today says small classes are better for student learning regardless of what the teachers do! http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2008-03-24-small-classes_N.htm
        — Gale Courey Toensing

      • Here’s the rundown: in most high schools, the principal is responsible for building the master schedule. The guidance department typically handles conflicts. The principal may delegate building the master schedule, but it typically done to either a guidance person, another administrator such as a vice principal or dean of students, or a computer systems person (someone generally neutral, as opposed to a teacher). They often receive extra non-monetary compensation (relief of duty or reduced caseload).

        At Housy, class limits are 27per teacher contract, but as low as about 16 for tech ed classes due to safety concerns and state laws. Typically science labs tend to be lower in most schools as well. The teachers contract allows temporary overcrowding, so long as the problem is resolved in a reasonable timeframe – ie in less than a month. The teacher consult is because the teacher may note some students have not been attending and/or are not appropriate for the class (they don’t meet the prerequisites or would find the class too difficult). In such cases, students could be added while others are swapped out – sometimes into other sections in cases where students haven’t attended the class anyway. The idea is to offer a chance for students to start the class if it is believed the number of students enrolled will drop. The teacher consult is importabt, because the teacher may say no, please don’t add anyone, because enrollment doesn’t appear as though it will decline, or that they are aware of other students who have requested the course but have not been enrolled (ie a wait list). In the past, if a class were overbooked, it was by 1 studebt, not several, and at that point, attempts were made to see if another student could be moved to another section without disrupting their schedule (causing changes of other teachers or electives, unless the student wanted such changes). Overcrowding of 3 or more students is inexcuseable, unless it’s a study hall.

  8. It’s been a while since I reviewed the principal’s contract, but I don’t believe that scheduling is mentioned in that document. If it were to be mentioned anywhere it would be in the job description and I don ‘ t remember seeing it there either, given the history of someone other than the principal routinely taking care of that task. I will check, though. Read the post by “anonymous” on August 30 @ 8:28 pm for what looks like an accurate assessment of what seems to be going on with some of the class sizes and other problems that resulted from the staff reduction, a reduction by the way that wasn’t thoroughly and properly studied in terms of its short and long term impact and effect. Teacher contracts do specify maximum class size, but common sense should “rule” depending on what the class involves and it’s complexity. For purposes of each town’s assessment enrollment is determined according to the enrollment on October 1st. However, that doesn’t mean that as accurate as possible numbers shouldn’t be used when it comes to proper scheduling!

    Patricia Allyn Mechare

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