Why, Albany High?

Parents of thousands of Albany High School students have been asking that question for quite some time now, in reference to some notorious failures in security, and, most recently, with regard to the utter failure of the school to provide class schedules for it’s 2400+ students.

When I attended the AHS Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) on Monday, September 8, most students spent their first day of school trying to navigate schedules with missing and incorrect classes, and waiting in line to obtain necessary corrections.  I heard both Principal Maxine Fantroy-Ford and Albany City Schools Superintendent Eve Joseph speak of how unfortunate, inconvenient and embarrassing it was to have failed to provide class schedules and cancel the first 2 days of school at Albany High. The parents in attendance at that meeting were quite reasonably asking why this was the case, in addition to addressing longer-term concerns such as security procedures, and the treatment of students.  Many also noted the successes at Albany High which are frequently over-shadowed by the pattern of failures in leadership which lead to security problems, and situations like this scheduling debacle.  No answers were offered then, nor were they given to an emergency session of the School Board on Wednesday, September 10, nor have they been to date.

Yesterday, Friday, September 12, was the day by which the administration said all the schedules would be corrected, all the problems related to scheduling ironed out.  This is not the case.  There remain numerous problems, including classes without classrooms, teachers without class lists, and incredibly large classes.  One Regents-level Physics class of more than 45 students begins each day with a mad race for a seat, and is far too large to conduct the required labs.  No Physical Education teacher has a class roster, so all students assigned to PE in a particular period sit in the locker room for that time while a movie plays on a TV.  Simlutaneoulsy, students assigned to study halls sit in the gyms because no classroom has been assigned.

Today’s Times Union editorial asks the question, “Why, Albany High?” I believe Albany’s students, their parents, and the taxpayers whose extraordinarily high school tax bills were, ironically, paid this week, deserve an answer and a solution to the crisis of leadership in the Albany City Schools that allows such failure to continue.

I’m not looking to excoriate individuals along the path, there are only a few with ultimate responsibility.  I want to see the problem solved for Albany’s students and teachers, who deserve better treatment than this environment of chaos and insecurity on a train of broken promises and mis-stated expectations.  We deserve to know:

  • What caused the failure in the scheduling system?  What is required to correct that failure?
  • Why were the families of Albany High students strung along instead of given the truth? The timelines and explainations just don’t match up.
  • What was the cost of this failure?  Overtime for personnel, the cancelled days, the lost training days for teachers at the high school, and the necessary corrections to the broken places in the system of people and computers accountable for scheduling.
  • How will this be avoided in the future?  While the failure to produce schedules is a “new” failure, there have been other related issues (incorrect absence/tardy days on report cards, late report cards, interim reports and more).

Then we can get on with working together to celebrate our students’ achievements and successes, making sure they are safe, and ensuring an excellent learning environment.

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