Roxbury shares teacher with Stamford as enrollment drops

By Pauline Liu
Roxbury and Stamford central schools have embarked on an experiment to share a high school science teacher, since neither school district has the funds to hire a chemistry and physics teacher of its own.

Faced with declining enrollment and reduced state aid, an increasing number of schools in the region are sharing resources, but Roxbury and Stamford appears to be the first to share a teacher in a core subject.  

Jason Stevenson, 27, RCS Class of 2003, began his first job as a full-time teacher in September. The salary for a starting teacher is about $40,000 He begins each workday in Roxbury, teaching physics, chemistry and lab classes until 10:15 a.m.  Then, he’s off to Stamford, where he teaches chemistry and lab. 

The trip takes about 20 minutes by car and he is not reimbursed for mileage. Stevenson, who lives in Denver, explained that both school districts saw to it that he had enough time to get to Stamford and set up for his chemistry lab.  Stevenson, who has a boyish-face and an easy smile, admits that his job requires plenty of energy and organization. “I have to plan the labs carefully, especially if you don’t have the same equipment at both schools, “ he said. “I always have to write myself notes.” 

The two schools are the same size. Each has an enrollment of about 360 students. According Roxbury School Superintendent Tom O’Brien, the Stamford school district pays for a portion of Stevenson’s salary and benefits, but technically he’s a full-time employee of RCS. At RCS, Stevenson teaches a chemistry class with 19 students and a physics class consisting of just one student. In Stamford, there are 14 students in his chemistry class.  When asked to look at the situation under a microscope, administrators at both school districts are calling the experiment a success. “So it’s good for the school and its good for the teacher, because he has a full-time job,” said O’Brien. “This school district is trying to be as efficient as possible. If we can have shared positions and save taxpayers money, we try.”

Stamford Interim School Superintendent Bill Lister explained that SCS is no stranger to job sharing, since it is currently sharing Vocal Music Teacher Dana Rossback with Jefferson Central School. However, Stevenson teaches a core subject and seems to have good chemistry in the classroom  “I think Jason is working out very well, because he’s established a wonderful rapport with our students,” said Lister.

Students agree. “He’s a great teacher,” said 18-year-old, senior Kyle Ciaravino, who’s the only student taking physics at RCS. “He’s lots of fun and he makes learning interesting.” Ciaravino has already been accepted at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he plans to study engineering. “He’s an awesome teacher and he can relate to students,” said Heather Reinshagen, 17, who’s the president of the RCS Science Olympiad Team.

Last year, Stevenson was a teaching assistant at Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School in Albany. He earned a Master’s Degree in Secondary Science Education from SUNY Albany in 2009 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry from SUNY Oneonta in 2007.

Since his studies at RCS helped to inspire his interest in science and teaching, Stevenson explained that he is happy to give back. “I try to help them form their study habits here, because my goal isn’t just to teach  them the subject matter, but to teach them skills that will benefit them later in life,”
he said. 

According to Stevenson, the experiment has already worked out so well, that both schools have asked him to continue to share jobs over the next school year. “The drive going back and forth hasn’t been bad, since there hasn’t been much snow, but overall just being able to have my own classroom would be better,” he said.

As if Stevenson wasn’t busy enough, he plans to help coach a track team for fifth and sixth grade boys at Stamford, called Boys-on-Track. He also plans marry his longtime sweetheart, Cherie Fairbairn, next month. How will he get it all done? “I have a very understanding fiance,” he said with a smile.