Students at Swampscott High School face a change in school policy during the 2013- 2014 year: substitute teachers have returned to lead classes when a teacher is absent.
The new policy contrasts with last year’s study policy, where students reported to a directed study in the cafeteria when their teacher was absent.
When Principal Edward Rozmiarek joined Swampscott School Systems last summer, he noticed that the school was in violation of state laws regarding the number of hours of required classroom instruction.
Both students and teachers also questioned how the school was able to rehire substitute teachers with such a tight budget. For Principal Rozmiarek, it was a simple matter of prioritizing. Rozmiarek explained that he met with the new Superintendent of Schools, Garry Murphy, over the summer to look at the priorities of the school. They decided that ensuring classes could continue even when teachers were absent was a strong priority, and presented their opinions to the School Committee, who approved the budget change.
“The old policy meant we lost a day of school in class,” Rozmiarek said. “Students sign up for a class, and they expect their teacher to be there.”
Not everyone agreed that substitute teachers were the best option, however.
When a teacher is absent, he or she must leave a detailed lesson plan for the substitute teacher. Science teacher Dr. William Carter noted that the assignment must pertain to what students are learning in class. Foreign language teacher Alejandra Baralt said that she usually leaves a review packet, because most substitutes cannot teach new material to the students. Carter added that there is no guarantee the substitute teacher knows the material. “All substitutes are not versed in all subjects,” he explained.
Seniors Haley McDevitt and Noah Conti said that they miss last year’s directed studies and the freedom they provided. This year, Conti said, “We usually have a worksheet that we could do on our own in the cafeteria.”
Studies can be more productive for students, but only if the student takes the initiative to work. “Some students use directed studies for a good purpose and can catch up on a variety of things,” said Rozmiarek. Seniors Allison Richardson and Ashling Quinn agreed that studies are beneficial, depending on the student. “In some cases substitutes can be helpful but it is just as helpful to be in the cafeteria working on whatever our teacher left us to work on,” said Richardson. Quinn echoed, “Personally both studies and substitutes are the same for me because I do the work myself anyway.” But, she added, “It’s better to let kids choose how to manage their time.”
In theory, all
high school students would complete their work and a directed study would
benefit them. Principal Rozmiarek recognized that omitting substitute teaching
saved money and gave the students a sense of responsibility, but believes
hiring substitutes is “better educationally.”