Math White Table: Filling Jim’s Shoes


Editor’s Note: This piece follows up on last year’s budget cuts. Read more here:



Wearing a maroon Roll-Tide t-shirt, Jim Willis stands in the hallway at Spaulding high school. He greets every student he walks by with a joke and a smile.  Last year, U-32 students got to see him everyday, but it’s not like that anymore.

With Jim gone, everybody has had to adapt. Jim has to adjust to his new job, and U-32’s students have to make sure they pass their math classes without Jim.

At Spaulding, Jim not only has his own classroom to help kids in, but throughout the day, he goes and works in other math classes. When Jim was at U-32, at the White Table, any student could go see him throughout the day. There would be 50 names or more  written on his sign up sheet. At Spaulding, it’s different. “Kids can’t just come see me,” said Jim. They can only come if I call them back or if a teacher refers them to me.” 

Jim hasn’t quite settled in yet. “The hardest thing is getting to know the kids,” said Jim “I remember the first year at U32, and for the first month or two, I felt like I didn’t belong.”

At Spaulding, Jim is starting to get to know the kids. “ I have a lot of kids I’m becoming friendly with,” he said,“and I try to go beyond math to get to know these people.” 

Already Jim has started to make a difference. “I haven’t been here very long but I know I have some kids that are doing better because they can come work one on one with me,” said Jim. “It’s not necessarily because it’s me, but because I’m someone they can get along with.” 

Back at U-32, the school decided to keep White Table, where students can go and get extra math support.

Most of the math teachers have taken a band during the day to be available at White Table. It hasn’t been a very smooth transition. 

Noah McLane is a Junior who visited math white table often last year, and has continued to go this year.

“I think a downfall though is that it’s not your teacher,” so they aren’t able to help you as much as your individual teacher could,” Noah said.  “Also there’s not someone here every single band.” 

“But I think now the one beneficial thing compared to last year, is that when there is somebody here it’s one person and it’s usually not a lot of people here,” Noah said. “When its on the 1 to 1 ratio or 1 to 3 as opposed to him being here every single band like last year and there’s 10 people in here and only him able to help us, that made it difficult at times.” 

Whatever the reason, the number of students going to White Table this year compared to last year have dropped tremendously. 

“We’re at the end of September,” says math teacher Kate McCann  “ and we’re not seeing the number of kids that we’ve seen in the past.”. 

Steven Ushakov is a Geometry teacher  “From what I gather from other teachers so far, the difficulty is that there’s not a consistent person here for students to interact with,” he said. “I think the relationships he was able to develop were invaluable.”

Without Jim, a lot of students aren’t getting the help they need. Many don’t have the same free bands as their teachers. But while U32 hasn’t been able to fill Jim’s shoes, Jim has managed to keep his optimistic attitude. 

“I was really happy at U-32,” he said, “but I always figured if you lose something you can gain something back.”  

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