Substitute a no-show, class left alone

Erin Fox, Managing Editor

Class began normally on Dec. 5 for teacher Chris Doherty’s third period senior American Government class until students realized they had no teacher.

After students said they were unsupervised for more than an hour, a female staff member learned the substitute who was scheduled to cover for Doherty didn’t arrive and Principal Sarah Wondolowski was called to the class.

When Wondolowski entered the classroom, she said she noticed she was being video recorded by several students, so she requested them to delete any photos or recordings they had of her on their phones and to not post them to social media.

But some students believed this was meant to cover up any evidence that the class went unsupervised for such a long period of time, especially since  Superintendent Mary Shelton was on campus that morning observing classrooms.

“[Wondolowski] wanted to protect herself,” said senior Mason Friedman, a student in Doherty’s third period class.

Wondolowski said her statement was directed toward the students who were filming her on their phones when she entered the classroom.

“I don’t think it’s right I should be on social media without my consent,” said Wondolowski.

Senior Kailey Counts said she thought Wondolowski made it seem like the class should delete everything on their phones that showed them not being supervised during the period.

But others disagree.

“[Wondolowski] asked us nicely to delete any photos or videos and all our tweets,” senior Alli Lepere said.  “[She]wasn’t rude to us at all.”

Added senior Smita Balaji, “ She never told us not to tell people about it.”

After expressing her pride in the students for not leaving campus or causing problems, students said Wondolowski told the class she would order them pizza for lunch that day.

Wondolowski said the pizza for students was meant as a “positive thing,” intended as a reward for their good behavior. She said it is “completely false” that she gave students pizza so they would not tell others they did not have a substitute, as some students believe.

“I think Wondolowski giving us pizza was her way of bribing [us] so we wouldn’t spread it around,” said Counts. “I think she was scared about people finding out.”

But Balaji saw the pizza as a more innocent reward.

“It was nice of [Wondolowski] to offer us pizza,” said Balaji. “She told us we were very well-behaved.”

Added Friedman, “She gave us pizza to say, ‘OK, good job’ for staying in class. Knowing seniors, it could’ve been a lot worse. A lot more [students] were planning on leaving [the classroom].”

The class was left unsupervised because the substitute who was scheduled to watch the class covered another history class whose teacher had to leave because of an emergency.

Administrators learned students were unsupervised after  someone in the front office called the classroom, asked to speak with the substitute and the student who answered the phone hung up.

Doherty said he was informed of the situation the next Monday, Dec. 8, when a student from his third period class came in during A period and told him what had happened. He talked with Wondolowski later in the day.

Doherty said he was not surprised that a mistake like this happened and that there was no substitute to cover his classroom.

“There’s a shortage [of substitutes],” Doherty said.  “A lot of times there are no subs in the district.”

Wondolowski said it is the district and school’s obligation to provide substitute teachers. When teachers are going to be absent, they request a substitute through a district system.

But if the district is unable to find a substitute, Cal teachers are often asked by administrators to cover for their colleagues.

Doherty believed his students handled the situation of being unsupervised appropriately.

“[Third period] is a really, really, good class,” said Doherty.

Once they realized they were unsupervised, students said they began to set rules for the classroom, such as only one person at a time could leave the classroom with the hall pass, and the door must remain completely closed.

Since Shelton was on campus visiting classrooms that morning, students devised a plan to start discussing gun control if an adult entered the classroom.

Many students said they were unsupervised for as long as 80 minutes, while administrators said it was closer to an hour.

Math teacher Ghazala Niazi, who substituted for Doherty during A and fifth periods on Dec. 5, said that when she came in to cover fifth period, a student from third period entered the classroom to retrieve his backpack and told her that they did not have a substitute the previous period.

“Mistakes happen, we have to learn from this one” said Niazi. “Clearly in this situation, there was a lack of communication…leaving students unsupervised for a length of time.”

A&E Editor Keilana Lorenzana contributed to this story.