The Puzzle of Scheduling

By Jack Ringel 

The Seven Hills School — As second semester approaches, Seven Hills freshmen, sophomores, and juniors will begin thinking about their classes for the following year. While students will make their requests for classes at the beginning of second semester, Upper School English Teacher and Master Scheduler Caleb Paull has the task of creating the schedules for all students. 

Seven Hills allows students to request the courses they want to take for the next year, and then Paull does his best to meet those requests. “The way the scheduling process works here that may be different than other schools is that first we take requests from students about which courses they want for the following year, and then the schedule is built to try to accommodate as many of those requests as possible,” said Paull.

Paull, who has been the Master Scheduler for four years, creates the schedule for the following year during the prior summer. However, because Seven Hills offers so many courses, there can be challenges. “Some of the challenges are that not everyone is able to get exactly what they want. Students will certainly get all of their required classes, but they may not get all of their electives. The main challenge is creating a schedule that works best for the greatest number of students,” said Paull. “What that means is that if you are a student who is taking a combination of courses that is somewhat unusual compared to your peers, it may be harder for you to fit all of your courses.”

Paull said that, after course recommendations come out, students should strongly think about whether they want to take the Advanced Placement/Honors course that was recommended for them. “There is always the possibility to take an Honors course and drop it after it started, but the problem is when those kinds of changes are happening, the schedule is already made. I may need to shift around your other sections of classes. If you want to make one change, there can often be a domino effect. However, when a student tells me before the summer, those requests go into me creating the original schedule,” said Paull. 

Scheduling science classes is the hardest because they take up six blocks in a 10-day cycle instead of 5 like the other core classes, so Paull schedules those first. 

When asked about courses that are hardest to fit into students’ schedules, Paull said that there are no particular courses, but it’s hardest when a student requests a lot of single-section courses. 

Paull uses software called ScheduLogic for scheduling, but said he does not love it. “It is good at some things like letting me know which courses are going to be hardest to fit in,” said Paull. “It does not keep snapshots in time. If I make changes, it does not remember how it was before, so I have to manually remove every move I have made. So often I will have to erase all that I have done and start back from three days ago.”

While many would not like creating the schedule for a whole school, Paull likes being the Master Scheduler. Paull said, “I love this job. Most people hate it, but I love the puzzle piece part of it.”