To the editor:
Recently, Dr. Richard Safier, Superintendent of Gloucester Public Schools, wrote a My View piece regarding the concern I raised over the lack of adequate instructional time offered to students. (My View, the Times, Thursday, Sept. 5).
In it, he claims that the Gloucester Public Schools offers our children 901 hours and 12 minutes of scheduled instructional time.
However, Dr. Safier remains unclear and inconsistent in his calculation of time on learning for Gloucester’s elementary schools.
In an email he wrote to me on August 19, 2013, he claimed that Gloucester’s schools were offering students 920 hours per year.
“Regarding time on learning, here are our calculations. 5.25 hours of time on learning (times) 169 days (equals) 887.25 hours,” he wrote; “3 hours of time on learning (times) 11 half days (equals) 33 hours. That leaves 20 hours above the 900. Breakfast and snack time constitute time on learning.”
Where did the additional 19 hours go?
Beyond this notion that the school is offering 1 hour and 12 minutes of instructional time above the state mandate, Dr. Safier deducted time from the school day for lunch and recess, a small number for transitions, BMI screening and fluoride treatments. He also accounted for 11 half days, yet the school calendar sent out to all parents has 13 half days on it.
In addition, Dr. Safier has neglected to account for non-educational activities such as holiday events, including Halloween parades and Christmas school stores, winter and spring concerts, class movie days, travel time to field trips, attendance, signing up for lunch choices, “extra recess” times, fund-raising assemblies, and other non-educational gatherings and events.
To accurately assess the number of instructional hours, all of these events must be factored in to the calculation. Dr. Safier did not include them, which makes his conclusion of hours spent on learning incorrect. Even if Dr. Safier’s calculation is accurate, which I don’t believe it is, then why is he, the School Committee, principals, or anyone associated with running our schools, satisfied with just barely squeaking by on instructional hours?
Given our schools ranking in Massachusetts, shouldn’t our superintendent be focused on ways to increase instructional time and increasing test scores rather than fudging numbers so that it appears we are in compliance?
The bottom line is, we need to do better. We are failing our children by not giving them the tools they need to be successful in college and beyond. And the best place to begin is by giving them the instruction they need.