Amityville HS students receive incomplete grades in classes with no teachers
Parents in Amityville were shocked to see 'incomplete' grades on their children's high school report cards, including in Regents-level courses. The grades, however, were not based on student performance.
Multiple high school teachers were out on family medical leave and the Amityville Union Free School District did not have permanent substitute teachers to cover the classes.
Faith Robinson said she was first alerted to the issue from her high school freshman son—not the school district.
"One day he's like, 'Well, we don't do anything in English.' I'm like what? What do you mean you don't do anything? He said, 'We're not doing anything Mom, like we can play on our phone, we can talk to our friends, we can do other work, but we're not doing English," Robinson told Team 12 Investigates.
Robinson said she never got a notice from the school district that her son's English teacher would be out on family medical leave for the entire first quarter. The district never hired a permanent substitute teacher for the class. He received an incomplete grade for the class.
In October, her son's Regents-level Earth Science teacher also went out on family medical leave. District officials, again, did not have a permanent sub. Instead, the double-period was split up by two different science teachers. Robinson's son received an incomplete grade for the Regents-level course.
Now, the student's Social Studies teacher is out on paternity leave until mid-January. Robinson said school district officials have reassured her that there is a permanent substitue teaching the class, but she's worried her son will receive another incomplete grade in a third core class.
"I was told there are teachers in place, he's learning," said Robinson. "And he doesn't even have a grade. These are my kids and I need them to be in school learning. I need to feel confident that that's what's happening when they go there."
After numerous emails to school district officials, Robinson brought her concerns to a Board of Education meeting. Board members said they heard from several parents and did not believe it was fair to give students incomplete grades when there were no teachers to teach them.
"A Regents-level course that we have at the high school that hasn't had a teacher for four months and we knew that the teacher would be out on leave, I'm very concerned for the students in this class," said Trustee Juan Leon at a Dec. 7 school board meeting.
In response to Trustee Leon, Superintendent Edward Fale said, "Yes, it's true that we are short an Earth Science teacher. We have been trying to actively recruit a teacher for that position, a certified teacher, since the summer. There's a teacher shortage, particularly affecting science."
The school district had months to find replacements. According to school board documents reviewed by Team 12 Investigates, school administrators knew back in June that the high school English teacher would be out on leave. They were aware in August that two high school Science teachers would take extended leave starting in September and mid-October.
Team 12 Investigates sent repeated requests for comment to Superintendent Edward Fale over the course of three days. He did not respond until after our story aired and never addressed the high school English class that went without a permanent substitute teacher for three months.
In a statement sent through the district’s public relations firm, Fale said that the high school Regents earth science teacher went on family medical leave nine days earlier than expected and the incomplete grades were given to protect students. A substitute teacher led the class during those two weeks, Fale said, before two district science teachers took over to administer coursework.
“Most students in those classes completed their work and were graded accordingly. For those few students who needed additional time or support to submit assignments, they were provided a temporary incomplete in order to afford them the flexibility to finish their work and receive an official grade,” Fale said in a statement.
The district would not say how many students were given incomplete grades, citing it violates privacy.
Amityville UFSD is in the process of trying to hire 25 positions. On Dec. 7 the Board of Education approved the hiring of a new earth science teacher.
Parents said they should have been notified by the district about the teacher changes at the start of the school year.
"That's been the biggest struggle across the entire district this year, is the lack of communication," Robinson said. "We're parents. These are our kids. We just want to know what's going on. If we know what's going on, then we can prepare our kids for what their days are going to be like."
District officials have sent emails to parents saying they will fix the incomplete grades, but it is an imperfect solution. Robinson was told her son's second quarter English grade will be applied to the first quarter. The teachers covering for earth science will work with the teacher out on leave to assign grades by the end of the second marking period.
To parents, these Band-Aid fixes do not make up for the lost time that their children should have had learning in school, especially with upcoming Regents exams planned for the spring.