Metro

Lack of class schedules riles Madison Park students

This message was posted at the school’s guidance office.

CHASSITY BURTON

This message was posted at the school’s guidance office.

Three days into the school year, administrators at Boston’s only vocational school failed to complete one fundamental task — assigning classes to students and teachers — causing frustrated parents to pull their children out of school Monday while teachers threatened to walk out.

Students at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury said they are so fed up with the lack of classes that they circulated a petition demanding their schedules immediately, collecting about 200 signatures from students and teachers. They are also planning a protest for Tuesday.

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In an interview, Kanicha Roman, a 12th-grader who is one of the leaders of the petition drive, said she is baffled by the delay. Instead of beginning classes, she said, she has spent the last three school days cleaning the kitchen area of the culinary program.

“It’s just a shock,” Roman said. “Kids are getting aggravated and frustrated.”

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The petition reads in part: “We find this situation to be outrageous and demand a public apology and meaningful support. . . . We are responsible students and expect our school to be open for learning.”

Boston schools typically set their schedules in June for the following school year so teachers have ample time to prepare for classes over the summer. But development of a schedule at Madison Park has been entangled for months in a slow-moving effort to create a turnaround plan for the school to prevent state interventions.

Just three weeks before the school year began, Madison Park was scrambling to hire nearly 60 teachers and administrators; some of those positions remain empty.

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An intervention team named by the School Department and the Boston Teachers Union recommended shutting down the school if it failed to achieve a turnaround in three years.

Now, the School Department is making a concerted effort to fix the schedules at Madison Park so teaching and learning can commence, by dispatching more than a dozen experts from the central offices and registrars from other city schools.

John McDonough, interim superintendent, said in an interview Monday afternoon that schedules are set for grades 9 and 12, but he was unsure when schedules would be ready for the remaining grades.

He said the school is trying to build schedules on “what students need to succeed,” and that was not the case in previous years.

“The schedule drives everything and has to be right,” said McDonough, noting the job is complex and taking longer than anticipated. “As we dig deeper into the scheduling, we are finding other issues that have to be resolved. If we do not invest in getting it right, students at Madison Park will be at risk for the entire year.”

Teachers have been raising concerns about the lack of schedules for months. The union said it notified the school’s headmaster, Diane Ross Gary, on June 24 that it would be filing a grievance. The teachers union contract requires schools to set the schedule by the end of June whenever feasible and schools routinely comply, said Richard Stutman, president of the teachers union.

“The teachers want to be in their classrooms as quickly as possible,” Stutman said. “They remain hopeful that the school can show improvement and they are totally invested in a positive outcome.”

Students and teachers arrived at Madison Park Monday morning with the expectation that everyone would finally get their schedules. In fact, the headmaster sent out an automated telephone call Sunday night to families, at the direction of McDonough, promising the schedules would be ready.

But the job did not get done.

Agitated parents and teachers soon took to the phones, bombarding School Department headquarters and the Globe with complaints.

“Kids are getting warehoused in the vocational shops and wandering around the school,” one teacher told a reporter. “Everyone here is pretty stressed out.”

The guidance office shut its doors to students, posting a handwritten sign that explained that “we are working on schedules.”

Teachers scrambled to find activities for students to do. By early afternoon, McDonough swung by Madison Park to help push along the process, meeting with the headmaster. But school officials are making no promises the schedules will be ready Tuesday.

Chassity Burton of Dorchester, whose daughter attends the school, said Madison Park is in “complete disarray.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said. “Leaving a bunch of kids just sitting around all day with nothing to do is just a disaster waiting to happen.”

Her daughter, Danné Burnett, 16, a junior, said she is now struggling with the heart-wrenching decision about whether to transfer, something she said some of her classmates have done.

“The only reason I don’t want to leave the school is because I am the captain of the basketball team,” she said. “But my education comes first, and if I decide to stay, I feel like this school year is just going to be sloppy and disorganized.”

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.
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