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Cameras in the classroom?


Resident asks Wakefield School Board to give it a try


June 10, 2010
WAKEFIELD — Teachers at Paul School should be kept under video surveillance while in the classroom, according to a resident who made his pitch to the school board at their meeting on Jan. 2.

Resident David Lee, who frequently attends school board meetings, noted that Paul School has had trouble keeping up with the standards the set by the federal No Child Left Behind act.

For the last six years, Wakefield School District and the Paul School have been in and out of designations called school in need of improvement (SINI) and district in need of improvement, according to NCLB standards. This is because subgroups of students are not making adequate yearly progress, said Superintendent Gail Kushner.

According to Lee, the school's performance might be enhanced if the teachers worked under video surveillance because they would never know when they are being evaluated.

"One of the big bugaboos I have is the teachers," said Lee. "When the principal drops in the classroom, they can change their mode of operation very easily. It would be extremely beneficial to the kids of this neighborhood if we had some ability to evaluate the teachers every day, any time during the day."

Lee noted that he's able to monitor his home in Massachusetts from Wakefield with his security system.

"I'll challenge the school board to look into something like that," said Lee. "Out of 45 teachers there's got to be a few of them that don't belong in the school."

School board member Pricilla Colbath, who was acting as chair, said she wasn't sure if such a system would be legal. She said the board could discuss it at another time.

The cameras don't need to have recording capability, said Lee in a follow up conversation. If all the teachers were recorded for the entire day, that would translate into over 50,000 hours of video. Lee also said until the economy gets better he'd be reluctant to launch a petition warrant article for cameras in the classroom.

On Monday, Principal Pat Troy said it's important for administrators to be in the classrooms when they conduct teacher evaluations. If evaluations were observed remotely, it would be easy for administrators to "miss the nuances" that go on in the classroom. Troy says he pops in and out of classrooms on a regular basis and he gets some of his best insights by asking students about their lessons and how they are doing.

In clinical evaluations, teachers explain their lesson plan in advance and the administrator watches them deliver their lessons. Then, both parties have a meeting to discuss how the lesson went.

Another issue with video surveillance is it would be "very expensive" to wire the whole school for cameras, never-mind audio, said Troy.

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