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School department seeks to fill 62 vacancies Madison Park High with just three weeks before school starts

Yawu Miller | 8/13/2014, 1:21 p.m.
The Boston Public Schools contracted with consultants to hire staff at Madison Park High School in June. Now, with just ...
The school department hired a search firm to fill vacant teaching, administrative and staff positions at Madison Park High School. With just three weeks until classes start, the school still has 62 vacancies, teachers say. (Banner file photo)

With just three weeks left until classes resume, the administration at Madison Park High School is attempting to fill dozens of vacancies in its teaching and administrative staff.

The vacancies came after a March 12 meeting when acting School Superintendent John McDonough reportedly told teachers at the vocational high school they would have to re-apply for their jobs, then reportedly blocked Headmaster Diane Ross Gary from making new hires.

The school department contracted with a hiring firm in June, three months after other Boston schools began their hiring process. That firm held a July 29 job fair, but with a five-month head start, other schools in the city may have gleaned all the talent. Madison Park still has 62 vacancies in its faculty and staff, teachers and volunteers at the school say.

“They haven’t even hired the administrators who are going to be on the leadership team,” said teacher Dennis Wilson. “They are setting Madison Park up to fail.”

A school department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment by the Banner’s press deadline.

Members of the Friends of Madison Park, a group of former teachers, graduates and community supporters, said the school department’s inaction on hiring has dealt Madison Park a serious blow.

“The superintendent has thwarted every effort of the headmaster to replace the teachers who left,” said Friends of Madison Park member Louis Elisa. “Then he turns around and says he has the interests of the children at heart.”

When Ross Gary arrived in 2013, 35 percent of the student body was classified as having learning or behavioral disabilities. The average vocational high school in the state has 19 percent of its student body in special education programs.

Madison Park has had no staff trained in working with special education students.

The school department formed an intervention team of educational professionals to help turn the school around, but has repeatedly denied Ross Gary’s requests for crucial support staff like assistant headmasters and a discipline officer.

Last year, Madison Park meted out 205 suspensions — more than one a day. With no assistant headmasters, those duties fell on Ross Gary. The apparent lack of resources has many wondering about the department’s plans for the school.

“We need to make sure the headmaster is supported, that she’s given all the resources — financial and human — that she needs to turn the school around,” said District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson. “It’s imperative that a headmaster be able to hire her staff.”

But with classes set to begin the first week in September, it’s doubtful Madison Park will have a full complement of teachers, according to former Madison Park teacher Bob Marshall, who volunteers at the school.

“You can’t hire 60 people in three weeks,” he said.

“The best teachers were scooped up in March,” Wilson added.

McDonough has publicly questioned the viability of the school, but Jackson says he’s committed to seeing Madison succeed.

“Madison park has to be successful,” he said. “It is our pathway into careers, living-wage jobs and 21st century jobs.”