by Cicely L.
Parents, kids and school leaders are scrambling to deal with the unprecedented number of teachers on administrative leave. Since it does not appear this problem is going away anytime soon, it is time for PGCPS to be proactive rather than reactive, and find ways to ease the transition for everyone involved. So here are 4 suggestions that may help…
1. Give parents relevant information about who is taking over the class when a teacher is on administrative leave.
It is helpful to know the name of the long-term substitute, but it is equally important to know how we can get in touch with them. Provide an email address and inform parents what steps are available to get in contact with the long-term sub or another school official if we have questions on assignments or concerns about our child’s performance.
2. Standardize the timing in which parents are notified when a there is going to be an extended absence of a teacher.
Why are parents in the dark for weeks about who is teaching our children? PGCPS should implement protocols that standardize the timing in which this information is provided. Right now it seems as if the timing is triggered after enough parents complain and demand answers. That is not effective or efficient. Formalize the timeline and require each principal to send a letter home to parents within a certain time period (preferably 48 hours) after it is determined a teacher will be placed on administrative leave.
3. Give principals and school representatives the tools necessary to answer questions from parents about a teacher’s absence.
It is clear that there is uncertainty in what information can be provided to parents while still maintaining the confidence of teachers. Let’s take the uncertainty out. Let’s stop the rumors and speculation which is far more harmful to an innocent teacher’s reputation. Consider preparing a standard script for school leaders to have available to address these questions. There has to be some wording that doesn’t violate teacher privacy while also giving parents what they need to understand what is happening in their child’s classroom. Distribute it to principals, assistant principals and office personnel so they know how to handle these questions from parents and especially kids who are wondering about the whereabouts of their teacher.
4. Implement strategies to ensure children with long-term substitutes are not falling behind.
I have heard a number of assurances from various administrators stating their first priority is to maintain a consistent quality education for our children even in periods were a long-term substitute is in place.
Yet, there are plenty of stories of classrooms where no grades have been posted to School Max for weeks. Completed homework assignments that come home day after day with no evidence they have been graded or even looked at. No clear answers whether long-term subs are periodically observed in the classroom. I don’t have these expectations of a typical substitute, but the criteria are different when stepping into the role of a teacher for a long period of time.
Ensure school leaders have the knowledge or tools necessary to give substitutes timely access to School Max or alternatively designate someone to enter the grades on behalf of the substitute. This process should be implemented at the time the long-term sub is placed in the classroom. Lastly, mandate that long-term substitutes are periodically observed by a principal or assistant principal to ensure they are adhering to the curriculum and have appropriate classroom management skills.