By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Montclair High School is experiencing teacher shortages in at least two departments: Spanish and physics.

Four Spanish classes have been affected by a shortage of full-time instructors, and parents have voiced frustration with classes not having designated full-time staff.

One Spanish teacher, Joseph Woyce, started at the high school on Monday, Oct. 21, according to a letter sent by curriculum director SallyAnn Howell-Rembert to parents on Friday, Oct. 18.  School officials will be offering options for students to catch up on work that has been affected.

“The past six weeks have been extraordinarily difficult, for both you, your child, and those trying to find solutions for this untenable situation,” Howell-Rembert wrote to parents.

Students in the four Spanish classes without a full-time teacher will receive a grade of 90 for their first marking period grade, and will have an opportunity to work with a Spanish teacher on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays starting at the end of October, school officials said.

Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker said the district is also having trouble hiring a new physics teacher for the high school. The difficulty, he said, is in finding candidates who are sufficiently qualified.

Parker acknowledged that the shortages for Spanish and physics were causing problems at the high school, and bringing in concerns from parents.

Matilda Bondy’s son, Dominik, a junior, has not had a designated Spanish IV honors and AP Physics teacher this year. The instructor in charge of the physics class is qualified to teach the math portion of the class, but not the lab portion.

“It’s been brutal,” Bondy said.

During the 2018-2019 school year, a total of 17 of the district’s 156 teachers were out on extended absence during the year.

The Spanish IV honors class has been operating with a long-term substitute teacher in place since the beginning of the school year. But questions have been raised whether the substitute is completely qualified to teach the course, Bondy said. “I’m not sure if it was her fault, to be honest,” she said.

A full-time teacher from another Spanish class has been providing material for the class to work on during class periods, Bondy said.

While that teacher has not been teaching the class, he or she has been grading the students’ work. “It’s a little tricky, because no one wants to blame a teacher. It’s not the teacher’s fault,” Bondy said.

The subject came up during a back-to-school night for parents at Montclair High School earlier in the fall.

According to a list of 2018-2019 retirees that Montclair Local obtained via OPRA request in June, one Spanish teacher was scheduled to retire from the district, effective July 1. But Bondy said the district didn’t begin looking for a new full-time Spanish teacher until about 10 days before the start of school.

Another Spanish teacher took an administrative leave in October 2018, and did not have a return date listed by his or her name as of April.

The district had two openings for Spanish teachers at the high school advertised on its website as of Friday, Oct. 18. One of those positions was posted on Aug. 16, and the other was posted on Sept. 13.

The physics teacher position was posted on June 27.

Bondy said one parent at back-to-school night suggested taking video of the classes with full-time teachers and streaming it online for the Spanish IV class, such as through Google Classroom. But the school and the district vetoed the idea due to privacy concerns, she said.

Bondy said she is trying to arrange a meeting with Parker and the district administration, but trying to arrange a time with district officials has proven difficult.