CHINCHILLA — The absence of an 11th grade honors math teacher at Abington Heights High School generated a lot of conversation during a work session of the district’s school board members on Wednesday at South Abington Elementary School.
According to Abington Heights Assistant Superintendent of Schools Thomas Quinn, the teacher, who was not named at the meeting, is not currently on leave but has been using sick days for the majority of the first few months.
“It’s been an incremental thing since, if not the beginning of the year, soon afterward,” Quinn said. “He (tells us) he expects to come back in a week, then a week goes by and the doctor says, ‘No you can’t (go back),’ so he’s out another week. We’ve been going week to week for a while as he uses his sick time.”
Scott Thorpe, who has a daughter in the math class, questioned the quality of instruction offered during the absence of the teacher.
“My concern is that SAT testing is coming up and they are still in Chapter 1 of their program,” Thorpe said. “My daughter and other students are taking 10-15 minute lunches so they can go to math clinic to keep up with their academics. It’s a major concern because kids are struggling. They are taking it upon themselves to work together, but it’s unfortunate the problem is happening.”
According to Abington Heights Assistant Superintendent of Schools Thomas Quinn, the district has a permanent solution that will be in place until either the teacher returns or the end of the school year, whichever occurs first.
“What we have in (place) now is a math certified teacher with an engineering degree who is serving as a day-to-day substitute,” Quinn said. “If the teacher should go out long-term, he’ll become a long-term substitute.”
Quinn believes the district handled the situation the best way it possibly could under a tough circumstance.
“It’s extremely difficult to find available, certified math teachers at the high school level,” he said. “In the interim while we searched, we tried a number of things to support the kids. We’ve utilized a flip classroom model where we have videotape lectures from places like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where one concept at a time was presented and we used the substitute teacher and math clinic to reinforce the instruction. One of our assistant principals, who is a certified math teacher, has spent some time in the classroom.”
While the students are not up to date on all the class material, they will receive a grade for the first quarter of the school year.
“We have to do some type of grading in a modified way,” Quinn said. “It’s going to be recognized they are not where they would have been with the same teacher. We don’t intend to penalize anyone for a problem they didn’t cause, but we will have some way to assess their progress.”
In other business …
Abington Heights Superintendent of Schools Michael Mahon provided an update on plans for renovations of the high school pool.
“We’re fortunate that seven firms responded to our request for qualifications,” he said. “Members of the administration will schedule walk-throughs in the coming weeks. The project is likely to be complex because we know the Dry-O-Tron, a mechanical dehumidification system used to control humidity and air temperature, needs to be replaced and other work will have to be done.”
Members of the board approved Kansis Dolinsky, Ashley Gesek and Caitlin Meedham as personal care aides for the 2015-16 school year.
“We’ve had a number of aides leave and we’re in need of supports for our special education students,” Mahon said. “If we waited (to vote) for the regular meeting, by the time we got them in it could be as much as three weeks.”
Members of the Abington Heights School Board will next meet at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at the district’s administration building, 200 E. Grove St., Clarks Summit.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.