District school teachers told the Hillsborough Board of Education at its most recent meeting that that they are concerned they may be shortchanged by the staff development days lost in the aftermath of Sandy.
The school district had originally scheduled Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 5-7, as in-service days. Coupled with the New Jersey Education Association convention set for Nov. 8-9, students would have a full week off from school.
But Sandy changed all that.
Schools were closed the week of Oct. 29. Schools were unable to open Nov. 5 and 6 because of power outages. And the NJEA cancelled its convention because of the storm’s impact on Atlantic City.
Because state law requires public schools to be in session for 180 days, the “snow” days caused by Sandy brought the school district to the brink of that requirement. The school district was able to recover three of those lost days by canceling the in-service day scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 7 and having classes on Thursday and Friday.
But that still means that any snow days this winter will have to be made up either at spring recess at the end of March or eliminating the Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 21) or the Presidents’ Day (Feb.18) holidays.
The in-service days were then moved to the end of the school year after the last day of classes, Superintendent of Schools Jorden Schiff explained at Monday’s school board meeting.
“There aren’t a great deal of options,” Schiff said.
Those in-service days, he said, will focus on the new guidelines for teacher evaluations. It is a state requirement to hold those sessions.
But teachers attending the board meeting bemoaned the loss of in-service days that were targeted for curriculum review and technology training.
Kelly Villano, a teacher at Auten Road Intermediate School, said teachers would now not be receiving the technology training that was included in last week’s in-service days. She said that many teachers were unable to attend the training sessions held last summer.
Villano also said she did not have enough time at the beginning of the school year to study the curriculum.
"I didn’t have my full curriculum until two days before school began,” she said, adding that no one is to blame because “there just wasn’t enough time.”
Schiff said administrators realize the importance of the in-service days.
“We’re trying to put something together,” he said.
Another Auten Road teacher, Sylvia Scozzari, was more emphatic.
“I feel like we’re drowning,” she told the board.
“To say we’re overwhelmed is to put it mildly,” she said, adding that teachers are “being pulled in many directions.”
While she said the technology support staff has been “awesome,” Scozzari said there are still problems with implementing all the technology.
“We’re not being properly trained,” she said.
Scozzari said that some of her students “know more than I do.”