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Boston wraps up its first full week of school with class scheduling problems still plaguing the city's only vocational-technical high school.
The headmaster of the Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury, Diane Ross Gary, says all students now have schedules, but admits that some have incorrect assignments and some include classes that students may have already taken. Ross Gary says staff members are continuing to work around the clock to get the schedules right.
A faculty member says most teachers have not received schedules. Those that have say they can easily see that the schedules are incorrect, based on the certification and subject content. Some teachers reportedly have been assigned to rooms that do not exist.
A group of concerned parents met at Madison Park Thursday, a week after the start of school.
Elton Bocage, co-chair of the School Site Council, says while they were walking through the school, they saw students in classrooms with no teachers.
"We also saw students that were sitting on tables, on their desks, instead of on chairs because they didn't have any chairs there," he said. 'The classrooms were so crowded and then there were classrooms that were empty with no one inside."
Bocage has two students at Madison Park — a daughter studying movie production and a son studying plumbing. He says parents are now trying to figure out what they could do.
"Do I want to continue sending my son or daughter here? And now you got to remember, I have two kids here, so I have to make a decision," Bocage said. "As a concerned parent, I'm saying I'm going to give them a little time, but how much time do I need to give them because my children's futures are at hand. I still want to see my children get a good education."
In a letter to the Madison Park staff, Ross Gary says guidance counselors and program directors are working to ensure students and teachers are matched up correctly and that progress has been made.
As the students left school this week, they were told they would have corrected schedules by Monday.
Students had staged a walkout on Tuesday — the fourth day of the school year without class schedules — out of frustration, carrying signs that read, "We demand an education." The students had spent their first week sitting idly in the cafeteria or in classrooms without teachers. One student complained of being moved from one room to another, saying "they were treating us like we were in prison."
Problems this year could have been expected. Last spring, when other schools began hiring teachers and planning class schedules for the upcoming year, Madison Park stopped that process. Teachers were told they had to re-apply for their jobs. Hiring at Madison Park for this school year did not get underway until Aug. 11. Some teachers had already taken jobs elsewhere and when classes began on Sept. 4, there were still a couple of vacancies.
An intervention team was brought in to look into the long term problems that had been plaguing the school including low MCAS scores and low graduation rates. In June, the team recommended that the school should be closed within three years if improvements are not made.
Then came the problems with the schedules: switching from a seven-period class day to an eight-period class day, increasing hours for vocational studies and re-ordering priorities for English language learners and for students with disabilities.
A team from Boston Public School headquarters has been at the school trying to help iron out the problem. By the end of the week, news came that an administrator, a long-term employee of Madison Park, had been placed on leave. Teachers within the school and the Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman say the employee is just a scapegoat.
Parents are worried about how students will make up for lost class time. Bocage says the parents plan to hold another meeting next Thursday.
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