STAMFORD — The principals of Stamford and Westhill high schools have officially recommended to the administration that the district move away from the 4×4 hybrid block schedule that is expected to be implemented at both schools this fall, citing concerns over the potential “catastrophic impact” of the proposed schedule. on academic success and the ability of students to graduate.
The CT Examiner obtained a copy of a letter sent to Superintendent Tamu Lucero and the school board by Michael Rinaldi, principal of Westhill High School, and Matthew Forker, principal of Stamford High School. The letter asks the Superintendent and the Board of Education to implement the A/B block schedule, which is already in use at the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering, known as AITE, rather than the 4×4 hybrid block schedule proposed next year.
The 4×4 block schedule model would schedule students to attend 90-minute sections of the same four classes each day for the fall semester, then move on to four new classes for the spring. This is different from the Block A/B timetable, which contains 90-minute class periods of four alternating class periods every other day, meaning students continue to take all eight classes throughout the year.
Two of the district’s schools — Westhill High School and the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering — held votes of no confidence in Lucero and Associate Superintendent of Teachers and Learning Amy Beldotti earlier this spring . The vote was backed by 42 of AITE’s 51 tenured faculty members and 71 of Westhill High School’s 101 tenured teachers, according to information from the Stamford Advocate.
Voting in high school was mainly spurred by dissatisfaction with the proposed schedule, which teachers said they feared would lead to loss of learning and difficulty in holding students’ attention, and gives students fewer opportunities to improve over time.
Three of the other schools in the district – Strawberry Hill, Turn of River Middle School and Davenport Ridge Elementary School also held votes of no confidence in Lucero, for various reasons. Around 580 parents have also signed an online petition expressing their dissatisfaction with issues of staff shortages, school safety and a feeling that parents’ voices are not being heard.
Last week, a list of 27 trustees signed a letter of support for Lucero and Beldotti, along with the other two associate superintendents, Olympia DellaFlora and Dr. Michael Fernandes. While the letter doesn’t explicitly mention the high school schedule, it does commend the administration for giving people the opportunity to voice their opinions about the upcoming changes.
“Change is never easy. It’s difficult and messy and often what’s the right thing to do isn’t the easiest thing to do. Our district leadership has established processes and multiple opportunities for stakeholder feedback on a range of issues, but just because a decision isn’t popular with all groups doesn’t mean all stakeholder voices stakeholders were not taken into account. There is a difference between listening and accepting,” the letter read.
From “enthusiastic support” to “serious concerns”
Principals Rinaldi and Forker say in the letter that while administrators “enthusiastically supported” the 4×4 hybrid block schedule when it was originally introduced in the hopes that it would give students more choice and more opportunities for a deep connection with teachers, problems have begun to appear as schools attempt to compile schedules for students.
“While our high school planners have now worked through the process of constructing the 4×4 hybrid calendar, several serious concerns regarding the feasibility, sustainability and success of the 4×4 hybrid have come to light,” reads the letter.
Jackie Heftman, chair of the Board of Education, said Lucero is reviewing the points raised by principals in their letters.
“The superintendent recognizes that it is difficult to create a new calendar for secondary schools. She is working with our research department and our PowerSchool consultant to assess the validity of principals’ concerns,” Heftman wrote in an email.
Rinaldi and Forker said in the letter that the schedule would create a lot of scheduling conflicts due to the need to teach some courses for six months and other courses, such as advanced placement, for an entire year. Principals said many students will find themselves with multiple spaces in their schedules and some students may not be able to meet graduation requirements.
The schedule would also create problems for teachers, including situations in which teachers would not have space for an unassigned period, which could lead to certain sections of class not having a teacher, said Rinaldi and Forker.
“After acknowledging these serious issues, administrators at Stamford High School and Westhill High School have come to the conclusion that the risks associated with the 4×4 hybrid program far outweigh the potential benefits. In our professional opinion, the very real risk of having large numbers, perhaps hundreds of students without a full schedule, would have a catastrophic impact on academic achievement, graduation rates, as well as general and safe management. of our high schools,” they wrote.
Directors concluded that the Block A/B schedule would result in many of the same gains for students originally hoped for with the 4×4, including more choice for students and deeper connections with instructors. They said it would also pave the way for a move to a 4×4 schedule in a later school year, when students have had a chance to get used to 90-minute lessons.
“We appreciate Superintendent Lucero and her cabinet providing us with a forum to air our expressed concerns,” Rinaldi and Forker wrote. “We also hope that our carefully considered recommendation will be received in the spirit in which it is shared and that it will receive appropriate consideration in the best interest of our high schools and our district.”