Union files grievance over class load

Some city teachers say they teach more periods than contract requires

September 16, 2004|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

Teacher vacancies and new class schedules at some of the city's neighborhood high schools have some teachers complaining that they are overworked and have prompted the teachers union to file a grievance with the school system.

The grievance contends that some high school teachers are being required to teach more classes than their contract requires. Union officials said they have not received a timely response from the system's administration and have forwarded the grievance to the school board.

Teachers at Reginald F. Lewis High School, one of at least four schools that have generated complaints, are teaching six out of eight class periods a day, or 30 classes a week.

The union said it has received similar complaints from teachers at Southwestern, Frederick Douglass and Thurgood Marshall high schools.

The current two-year contract states that teachers are expected to teach 25 classes a week and have five planning periods and five duty-free lunch periods.

School officials said the extra teaching period per day is a result of a change in schedules at many neighborhood high schools prompted by a school board directive last spring to give ninth-grade students double doses of English and math instruction.

Many neighborhood high schools switched to schedules that offer yearlong courses and can be adapted to students' learning needs, school officials said.

Some schools that previously offered four 90-minute classes a day each semester - a schedule known as four-by-four - have switched to schedules of seven or eight 45-minute classes a day.

At Reginald F. Lewis, the switch to an eight-period day resulted in teachers being assigned to six classes.

Frank DeStefano, director of city high schools, said he was not aware of the grievance but acknowledged that some teachers were assigned to teach six classes this school year.

DeStefano said the contract's provision that teachers teach 25 classes a week was based on a seven-period schedule no longer in wide use. Under seven-period schedules, teachers would have five periods of teaching, one for lunch and one for planning.

By DeStefano's calculation, teachers are teaching no more than they did last year, when they were assigned to teach three of four 90-minute class periods.

But some teachers said there is a big difference between teaching three sets of students per semester and teaching six.

"When you burn your teachers out, that's no benefit to the students," said Valerie Kimble, who is assigned to three English classes, two creative writing classes and one drama class at Reginald F. Lewis.

DeStefano conceded that some teachers have more students than they should as a result of job vacancies. He said he expects teachers' loads to become lighter in coming weeks as the system continues to hire new teachers. As of Tuesday, there were more than 160 instructional vacancies in middle and high schools.

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