HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Frustrated teachers and students are speaking out. They say it has been bedlam at Hempstead Middle School, where many students are still without accurate schedules.
The teachers are pleading for help.
Afraid of retribution, many asked for anonymity but showed CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff class schedules riddled with errors and changed so many times, kids have lost track.
“It is absolute chaos,” one teacher said on Wednesday. “Students and teachers not knowing where they are supposed to be.”
When asked if anyone has a problem with their schedule, the answers came fast and furious.
“The schedules have changed almost three different times. One day they’re going to this class. One day they’re going to that class,” a teacher said.
“And the classes we do go to, our names aren’t on the attendance,” a student said.
“They keep changing everybody’s schedule,” another student said.
They are describing mass confusion, adding some classrooms have been booked for two courses in one period. They also said some rooms have been crammed with more than 45 students, many sitting sitting on bookcases and ledges. Some students have even been marked absent, even though they were there.
“Every single morning they say, ‘Oh you have a different class,’ and they’re making me absent,” a student said.
An entire month of instruction has been lost for some students. They are meeting teachers for the first time this week.
“Sad, upsetting … This is not what any of us signed up for, not the kids, not us, not the parents,” a teacher said.
The middle school principal told Gusoff the problems are not serious and would be fixed last Friday, but even new schedules are missing classes, teachers and classrooms.
Two weeks ago, Nicole Brown, the head of the teachers union, told the school board there are serious concerns.
“We have been asking that a total clean, total wipe of the master schedule be done and rebuild it,” Brown said. “A lot of staff have had several different groups of students since the start of the school year.”
However, Brown was told to put it in writing.
“We are not blind. We know that gonna work it out,” Hempstead School Board trustee Randy Stith responded.
District officials have blamed the problem on an influx of new students to the middle school, mostly immigrants, since August, and teacher cuts due to unfair state funding.
The same school board opposes state monitors, which have been approved by the state Legislature but not yet by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“If the monitors were in the district right now we wouldn’t have to be finding out about this as we enter into October,” former Hempstead trustee Melissa Figueroa said. “How can anyone in their right mind say that everything is under control and we’ve got this if our kids are not able to attend class.”
“Enough already. We would like to get started with the year. We would like to teach our subjects, get to know our students and not have to worry they they are going to disappear from the roster the next day,” a teacher said.
The students agree.
“Kids should be able to learn in a proper setting and kids should be able to know where they are going by now, by this time in the school year,” Jaclynn Howard said.
“Get itself together. It’s been going on for ages and it needs to stop,” one male student said.
District leaders claim what they need is not more monitoring, but more money.
Hempstead Schools Superintendent Regina Armstrong released the following statement on the issue:
“As superintendent of schools, I am aware of the perceived issues surrounding the middle school’s master schedule. Over the past two weeks, central office staff met several times with the officers of the teachers’ union to hear their concerns, but most importantly to address them. The middle school goal has been, and continues to be, to ensure certain class sizes are as equal as possible, while also adhering to SED regulations (i.e. part 154), students’ interest, and the teachers’ contract. To ensure all concerns the teachers’ union have shared are addressed, central office has been personally working with ABGS administrators and guidance counselors to oversee any needed revisions to the master schedule.
“Please note, to date, the superintendent’s office has not received a complaint from any parents in regard to their child’s schedule. If a parent does have a concern and does not get a resolve from building administrators, they are welcomed to speak to me as my door is always open. It is also important to note that unlike any other school district in Long Island, again, HUFSD is experiencing an influx of students, mostly new to the country. Our middle school had over 104 new students who enrolled as recently as last month. This would be quite challenging for any school district to manage, especially for a district who had to cut staff and programming due to a decrease in state aid from Albany. However, despite the obstacles we are facing, we will continue to operate keeping the needs of the students first.”