In the fourth week of September, high school journalists at Bloomington High School South broke the story that Monroe County Community School Corporation superintendent Jeff Hauswald was mulling a plan to unify the schedules of all high schools in the district.
The headline in The Optimist, the student newspaper at BHSS, read “MCCSC looking at changing South’s trimester schedule.”
South operates on a trimester schedule. North operates on a semester schedule. The length of class times also differs between the schools. Also in the mix are the district’s two other high schools—Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship and Bloomington Graduation School.
A little less than a month after The Optimist broke the story, last Friday (Oct. 20) MCCSC administration released a memo with the main features of the unified schedule: 60-minutes classes; and a year that’s divided into two semesters, not three trimesters.
In the meantime, the idea of unifying the schedules has met with significant opposition. As of late Monday, a petition that was set up on Change.org has about 1,250 signatures.
On Monday afternoon, about 250 people—students, parents, and faculty—gathered on the southeast corner of the Monroe County courthouse square in downtown Bloomington to protest the administration’s move.
The Friday memo had caught many by surprise, because they had the impression that the MCCSC administration was still gathering information, in order to make a decision.
Some of the signs at Monday’s rally called for Hauswald’s ouster.
During her turn with the mic, Bloomington High School North parent Candace Sampson said, “I’ve been following the superintendent for the last three years, and I really think that to get the schedule how we want it to be, which is how it is now—no changes to something that’s not broken—the only way is to not renew the contract for the superintendent.” She added, “Hauswald has to go.”
Bloomington High School North sophomore student organizer Kelton O’Connell, who created a website to support the effort to oppose the schedule change, was one of around two dozen speakers.
O’Connell called for a slowing down of the process. He said, “We’re here to tell our district, and our board members, and the community that this is really important to us. We want this process to be slowed down.” He continued, calling for a “direct, open discussion, where everyone is fairly listened to.” O’Connell said that teachers aren’t being respected in the process.
O’Connell challenged the MCCSC administration’s contention that the schedule change addresses issues of equity. He said, “I want to point out the fact that there’s no evidence for the equitable benefits that the schedule change will bring. There’s still no data from all of the district regarding how this schedule change will implement further increased equity.”
The Friday memo includes the administration’s case for an existing equity issue. Highlights from the administration’s memo include results from a survey that indicate the 80-minute class periods at Bloomington High School North are too long. Of the respondents, 38-percent of BHSN students think class periods are too long.
The memo says that a bigger percentage of students who are on the free/reduced lunch program at North think classes are too long. The specific statistic for survey respondents who are on free/reduced lunch is not given in the memo.
Another example given in the Friday memo, for what the administration contends is a disparate impact on those who are economically disadvantaged, comes from the participation in arts classes.
The current scheduling practice used by Bloomington High School South teachers means that while 65 percent of all BHSS students participate in arts classes, just 54 percent of students in the free/reduced lunch program do. And just 36 percent of BHSS students with disabilities take classes in the arts.
According to the Friday memo, the numbers from the last five years show there were 100 transfers between high schools with unaligned schedules. According to the memo, 55 percent of the transfers were students on the free/reduced lunch program. According to the memo, “these identified transfers were twice as likely to be Black/African-American students.”
Among the downsides that demonstrators cited on Monday were lost opportunities to pursue electives, like music or other the performing arts, which require longer class periods than the 60 minutes in the plan.
Ivan Lynch, who is a BHSS senior, and won’t be affected by the schedule change, talked about the benefits he has enjoyed from the current schedule. “I’ve used the weights program and the study hall time to pursue my goals, irresistibly, irrefutably, to be the best I can possibly be.” When he added, “And I know every single person here wants that opportunity!” the crowd erupted in cheers.
The sign that Lynch held at the rally said simply, “I bench more than Dr. Hauswald.” Lynch told The B Square that his personal best bench press is 335 lbs. The next day (Tuesday) he would be attempting 355 lbs. The BHSS school record for the bench press is 385 lbs., Lynch said, and by the end of the year he wants to go 5 lbs. better than that.
To achieve the removal of Hauswald, as some called for on Monday, will require what could be considered pretty heavy lift. It would mean persuading at least four members of the seven-member school board to give the superintendent notice before Jan. 1, 2024 that his current three-year contract, which ends June 30, 2024, will not be renewed.
That notice is required under state law.
Hauswald was hired by the board in 2021 under contractual terms that included a three-year term starting July 1, 2021 and ending June 30, 2024 with an initial base base salary of $209,500. For his second year of service, Hauswald received a salary of $215,785
Photos: MCCSC schedule change protest (Oct. 23, 2023)