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Got Tutoring? Not Now! Earle Dishes About the Demise of the Program and His Vision for Moving MHS into the 21st Century

Montclair High School Principal James Earle recently sat down with Lauren Glasse, the Editor of the Bull at MHS, to talk about the recent suspension of the lunch-time tutoring program.

Want the inside scoop on happenings at Montclair High School? The Bull at MHS is a student-run blog focused on news, events, and issues on the minds of MHS students. Created and edited by sophomore, Lauren Glasse, The Bull has covered a wide variety of subjects from sagging pants, to the racial divide of two small learning communities, to a recent interview with Principal James Earle on the recent demise of a popular lunch-time tutoring program. Several Montclair High students contribute articles and comments are always welcome. Become a reader at http://thebullmhs.com/

MHS’s principal, Mr. James Earle, and a few other sources revealed that a group of MHS teachers recently put the kibosh to the very helpful and popular “Got Tutoring?” lunch-time program. Without this help, many MHS students, myself included, have found it necessary to hire after-school tutors to help them do well in the many rigorous classes that are required for the college bound. With private tutoring prices in Montclair ranging from $60 to $140 an hour, such help is not an option for everyone. For those students whose parents are unable to write the checks, lunch-time tutoring, free of charge, was a great GPA-saving option for extra help. It was also at a time of day most convenient for students and teachers.

Disturbed by this recent event, I sat down with Mr. Earle today to discuss the fate of this program and other issues going on at MHS. Mr. Earle explained that the “Got Tutoring?” program was originally proposed by teachers as a way to help students and better utilize teachers who would otherwise be on hall duty during their free periods. As the first semester ended recently, some teachers who were involved in this program went back to Mr. Earle, citing concerns of contract violations if they were required to continue participation in this program through the second semester. Without support from all of the teachers, the program officially ended. Although several teachers were willing to continue the program, Mr. Earle cannot advertise their services to students en masse because of conflicts with their contract terms. As an educator, Mr. Earle mentioned that he was especially frustrated that some of the school’s other educators would find conflict with their contracts instead of focusing on the best interests of the students.

To avoid conflict with teachers’ contracts next year, Mr. Earle has planned to use half of the teachers to service “Got Tutoring?” for the first semester, and the other half for the second. Although this system may result in a higher student to teacher ratio and a rotation of different teachers each day, it’s the best compromise the administration could make to ensure that this program is available to students for all of next year. Mr. Earle is also willing to compensate the teachers for after school tutoring if he can work out the financial arrangements.

When asked about the large number of students who get tutored just to keep up their grades, Mr. Earle expressed concern over the lack of support provided to students, which in turn makes them seek out tutoring help. He commented that in an environment built around high expectations, MHS students are left to fend for themselves. With hopes of providing a conducive learning enviornment for all students, Mr. Earle is working on establishing the MHS Student Center, a comfortable place to work, print, make copies, get tutored by teachers, and collaborate with other students. This may be created in the new wing of the Freshman Building or on the second floor of the Main Building, utilizing the Writing Center. By day this area will be normal classrooms, but from 3:00 to 6:00 afterschool it would be a haven for students to experience more innovative learning. With access to at least one teacher for each subject, computers and study snacks, Mr. Earle envisions big changes to help MHS students succeed. Even though his idea sounds like a great resource to me, not everyone thinks so, according to Mr. Earle, who apparently has encountered some opposition.

Until “Got Tutoring?” is reinstated next year and the MHS Student Center opens in the near future, I asked the principal what students who need teacher assistance can do in the meantime. Mr. Earle urges students to to tell their teachers that they need help; “Demand it”, he says. He also suggests students share their class and after school schedule with teachers and instead of asking “are you available to help me?”, ask “when are you available to help?” If students still do not get a positive response after contacting their teacher, they are welcome to come to the administration and request help and the necessary arrangements will be made.

After talking with Mr. Earle, I am convinced that he truly does have a vision for greatness at MHS. He emphasized that the resources and foundation are already there, but restructuring needs to be done to take MHS where it needs to go. “I want to move this school into the 21st century.”

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

MC April 11, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Great reporting, Lauren. This is a story that should be getting a lot of attention. I'll be watching "The Bull" blog but keep Patch posted as well. I hope Mr. Earle continues to share updates with you and continues to demonstrate to students "a vision for greatness at MHS." To Patch -- thanks for consistently giving MHS students a platform to share perspective and news.
Right of Center April 11, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Ms. Glasse is to be commended for writing such a cogent analysis. I'm disappointed that the MEA would rather have teachers on "hall duty" rather than participating in teaching.
hereswhatithink April 11, 2012 at 02:43 PM
It's more than disappointing. It's ridiculous to force the teachers who were willing to do this to stop.
Right of Center April 11, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Remember, the MEA is watching out for the kids!
Kevin April 11, 2012 at 04:18 PM
It's hard for me to understand how the MEA continues to create these PR gaffes, especially right before contract negotiations. What are they thinking?
Bronwyn April 11, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Welcome to the real world, ROC. Agree with their stance or not, a teacher's union is watching out for the teachers.
tryintosurvive April 11, 2012 at 05:14 PM
"a teacher's union is watching out for the teachers." That is understood. But how would doing "hall duty" be agreeable and tutoring not be. They both appear to be during the school day where the teachers are working anyway. What is the MEA watching out for? ...
Bronwyn April 11, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I don't know the specifics because I don't work there. But hall duty was necessary where I did work because kids skipped classes and took incredibly long bathroom breaks. It was the teacher's role to get these kids back to class. I would rather have tutored than do this any day, incidentally. I'm sure they are out there, but I never met a teacher who would not come in early or stay after school to help a student. This is a strange story, though.
Bronwyn April 11, 2012 at 05:47 PM
I'm wondering if there is a confusion between hall duty and a teacher's prep session, too, which are two different things. This is a lunch time tutoring session and so the teachers are asked to give up their lunch ...what does this have to do with their hall duty, which are likely to be at different times during the school day? Were they then eating lunch during hall duty and not fulfilling that obligation? Lunch time tutoring sounds like a good deal to me. Coming in early and staying late to tutor results in a very exhausting day.
Right of Center April 11, 2012 at 07:05 PM
this sounds like restructuring is needed to me. Why pay teachers $50,000 per year to patrol hallways. Hire a few much lower cost security people for that. In fact, there are security people already hired. It makes no sense to have a specialist (teacher doing that). We're constantly told that the reason teacher's only work 6.5 hours per day is that the other 1.5 are for prep. And they also need other prep time during the day?
Right of Center April 11, 2012 at 07:07 PM
If some teachers were willing to keep doing it, why should the union get in the way?
Lauren Glasse April 11, 2012 at 07:25 PM
The point of my article was not to diminish the efforts of teachers who are dedicated and are frequently available after school to students needing help, but to address the cancellation of the very helpful and convenient program for students at LUNCH time. The reason "Got Tutoring?" was so popular was because it was offered during every lunch period and had multiple teachers to help for each subject. For many student athletes, going for help afterschool is not an option because of required practices immediately after school, especially if they have to take a bus to practice. There are also conflicting demands with club obligations that continue after 3:00 p.m., so lunchtime really is the best time to get help. Now that this program is gone, if a student's teacher for a specific subject is not available at that student's lunch period, which is very common, the student has no other option but to go afterschool, or attempt to connect with another teacher of the subject matter who is willing to help. While I recognize the benefits of the Writing Lab for many, my informal survey among students indicates that more students need math and science help, resulting in the need for outside tutors.
Bronwyn April 11, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Teachers are not paid $50,000/yr to patrol hallways. And the 6.5 hours/day is far less than most teachers work. And when they are in the school, they work as opposed to reading and commenting on blogs. Teachers typically teach 5 periods although this may vary depending on the type of scheduling in the particular school. And I think this is reasonable--100 to 140 students is a lot. How could it possibly be cheaper to hire more security guards as opposed to using the people that are already in the building? I'm not getting out my pitchfork just yet because I think there are some things missing in this story. It seems a little histrionic to me, painting a picture where the students are all lost and struggling and there are no teachers willing and able to offer tutoring. And the only solution is for students to hire private tutors? Please. And it sounds like it's a temporary glitch in a new program, anyways.
Right of Center April 11, 2012 at 07:53 PM
I think good grades and studies should take precedence over sports and clubs.
mtc parent April 11, 2012 at 08:04 PM
You shouldn't have to choose. If you're on a team, you are expected to be at the practice/match/game right away. (On the other hand, my daughter did have a coach who WAS willing to let kids be late to practice if they were getting after-school help.) Besides, if teachers only have to stay until 3, that doesn't give much time for help after the end of the school day, esp. if there are multiple kids staying after.
Right of Center April 11, 2012 at 08:27 PM
I think if you are having trouble getting good grades or learning your math without repeated tutoring, you should drop the team.
Right of Center April 11, 2012 at 08:28 PM
I think if you are having trouble getting good grades or learning your math without repeated tutoring, you should drop the team.
Montclair's Own April 11, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Hire private tutors? They are lucky they can afford them. Many kids can't afford it, yet nothing stops them from personally asking a teacher to sit down with them before or after school to ask for help. I also don't understand the hypocritical stance of the principal here...he condemns the teachers union for following their contract, yet then condemns the free-market tutoring-service outside of school. Isn't tutoring outside of the school capitalism at its finest? Isn't that what the principal essentially wants in the school system, but the union's in the way? Which way does he want it? I commend Ms. Glasse for writing this article and speaking out for students. I do expect, however, that more than one man's opinion is provided. Considering it seems that this program was in place last year, shouldn't the principal have planned ahead knowing that there are union rules?

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