District looks into credit recovery at CHS

Columbia High School

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — At a June 13 town hall meeting to discuss the long-range facilities and integration plan, Acting Superintendent of Schools Thomas Ficarra confirmed that his administration is currently looking into the credit-recovery program at Columbia High School.

According to a May 23 letter sent by the CHS administration to the school community, credit recovery is the process by which students who have exceeded the maximum allowable number of absences can make up that time. According to state law, a student who passes a course academically will be denied course credit if they miss too many classes. The allowable number of unexcused absences, according to state law, is five classes in a quarter course, nine classes in a semester course and 18 classes in a full-year course; excused absences that do not impact this threshold include personal illness, unavoidable school day appointments, emergency family obligations and the like.

Outside of these excused absences, if a student misses more than the maximum allowable number of classes, “the student will need to complete credit recovery to remedy the loss of ‘seat time’ in the class and meet the state attendance obligation,” according to the CHS letter.

Credit recovery consists of a student making up lost time by doing work in a classroom with a faculty member; during this time, the student is not allowed to use a phone or any other device. The credit-recovery time is essentially extra classroom time; it may be served during the summer, during the school year after the school day or on Saturdays.

Ficarra and his team are now looking into CHS’s credit-recovery program.

“We found a number of inconsistencies and a lack of clarity in policies and procedures,” South Orange-Maplewood School District spokeswoman Suzanne Turner told the News-Record on June 18. She added that CHS does not currently have a specific policy for credit recovery.

In order to bring clarity to the credit-recovery process and ensure it is consistent, the school district is investigating the issue. While the investigation continues, CHS students will still be able to utilize the credit-recovery program.

“Dr. Donna Rando, interim assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and Mr. Scott White, interim director of guidance, did a preliminary review which identified inconsistencies and lack of clarity,” Turner told the News-Record. “As a result of their initial review, the superintendent decided to put out a Request for Proposal for an audit of CHS policies and procedures. The audit will include recommendations so that we can make sure that there are clear policies and procedures, which are known to everyone and consistently implemented, going forward.”

This investigation comes at the same time as an “online credit recovery” investigation in New Rochelle, N.Y., where former SOMSD Superintendent Brian Osborne took the helm; Osborne announced earlier this month that he is resigning from New Rochelle Public Schools, but will remain through the 2018-2019 school year. Osborne, who has been superintendent in New Rochelle for four years, said in a public statement that he is resigning due to personal reasons.

As the SOMSD investigation is still ongoing, Turner declined to comment on any similarities or differences between the SOMSD matter and the New Rochelle matter.