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General Brown gets creative to offer certain classes

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DEXTER — Creativity — it’s what has saved some educational offerings in the General Brown Central School District for the 2013-14 school year.

As of Monday, the district officially offers physics for this school year for up to 30 students, as the Board of Education approved Clarence N. Bockus as a 0.2 physics teacher. The district could offer only a one-fifth position since Mr. Bockus is certified in another science specialty and his work schedule is already jam-packed with a full-time job and as an adjunct instructor at Jefferson Community College, Watertown.

Other creative solutions this school year include five junior-senior high school science and social studies teachers pitching in to help seventh- and eighth-graders fulfill their required 0.75 credits of family and consumer science credits.

Junior-senior high school Principal Tina M. Heckman said those five teachers didn’t have seven full teaching periods each, so there was enough wiggle room in their schedules to cover a family and consumer science class.

“Our motto here is to think outside of the box,” she said. “It pushes us to be creative. Everyone here from custodial staff to bus drivers to us really has to rise to the occasion.”

The family and consumer science position was full-time, but was reduced to half-time during the 2013-14 budget planning process. The teacher who held that position then resigned. The same scenario happened to physics.

David A. Ramie, assistant principal and athletic director, said teachers can teach one class outside of their certification, so General Brown used that to its advantage. This district wasn’t as lucky with physics because that science is so specialized.

General Brown had a particularly difficult time finding a physics teacher after a teacher resigned when the full-time post was cut to half-time. The lack of available certified physics teachers statewide, and part-time at that, made the search even more difficult.

Mr. Ramie said Mr. Bockus is state-certified in earth science, but previously has taught physics.

Board member Jamie Lee praised both Mr. Ramie and Mrs. Heckman for their diligent efforts to recruit a physics teacher, and board President Jeffrey West thanked the Watertown Daily Times, which ran a series of articles on the topic that caught Mr. Bockus’s attention.

Mr. Ramie said on Friday, guidance counselors began pre-enrolling students in the single physics class, giving seniors first priority. The district hopes to begin offering the class Wednesday.

Mrs. Heckman said the remaining 20 students who had registered for physics earlier this year will be able to take another science course and still receive an Advanced Regents Diploma.

Superintendent Cammy J. Morrison said she hopes the situation turns around next year so more physics classes could be offered.

Meanwhile, the district was successful in hiring other part-time teachers, including a library media specialist and technology teacher. The board approved those positions, 6-0, during its meeting Monday.

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