School board votes for early dismissal
FRISCO – After more than two hours of discussion and public comment, the Summit School District Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a one-year pilot program that calls for students to stay in class for 10 more minutes four days a week and be released from school 50 minutes early on the fifth day, starting next fall. The board will decide which day of the week classes will be shortened at its June 14 meeting.The early dismissal program will allow teachers to work together to develop standardized educational objectives and improve instruction, school superintendent Millie Hamner said. Its intent is to give teachers time to share successful classroom techniques, evaluate data such as student test scores and focus on learning needs of all district students.”We’re very clear it’s not more teacher planning time,” Hamner said. Because it only reallocates classroom minutes on the weekly schedule, implementation of the early dismissal plan will allow for additional teacher development without costing the district any money.”We’re not adding or losing teacher work time,” Board member Stuart Adams said. “The time is being shifted around.”Several parents and community members present at the board meeting voiced objections to the plan. Most complaints centered on the potential impact of the schedule change on students and families.”I think it clearly takes away time from the students and it puts the burden on parents,” Silverthorne resident Tony Notaro told the board.Alice Hayes expressed her dissatisfaction with the board’s decision.”I think their hearts are in the right place,” she said afterward. “But they’re saying that the teacher’s time is more important than the student’s.”Another parent, Heather Condari, complained that the plan does not include specific enough provisions for alternative student activities during the early release afternoon.”For me, it’ll be a hit financially,” she said. “I’m going to support it, because I love my son’s teacher, but I know that there are going to be upset parents.”The district has announced its intention to extend after-school opportunities, but no firm plans for the 50 minute time bloc have yet been made.Several other parents spoke passionately in support of the early dismissal program.”As a mom, I want to see this change,” Jackie Truckey, Upper Blue Elementary teacher and parent of students at the middle and high schools, said. ‘We’ve been doing this to some extent at Upper Blue and it’s really been successful.”Although the school board eventually supported the program unanimously, some members articulated reservations about its implementation.Board members Jon Kreamelmeyer and Bob Bowers both mentioned the importance of teacher input in formulating an effective plan for using the extra 50 minutes a week.”This needs to come from teachers,” Bowers said. “It can’t be a canned program.”Board Vice President Christine Scanlan said she supported the program but had some criticisms of the way the decision was being made.”I think we’ve had a lot of internal discussion, but we haven’t had enough public process,” she said. “I don’t like that.” Scanlan went on to express her concern that the community is not fully on board with the schedule change.”The ‘decide, announce and defend’ style of leadership is my least favorite form (of leadership),” she told the board. “I think we’re going to spend much of next year explaining why we did this.”Ultimately, board members voted to support the school principals and staff members who have presented the proposal at several meetings over the last few months.”This was staff-driven,” board President Jay Brunvand said, referring to the proposal. “To me, that’s huge.”Hamner said Thursday she was gratified by the decision.”They showed our staff a huge vote of confidence,” she said.Ongoing evaluation of the program’s success will continue throughout the 2006-2007 school year.Community comments on early dismissalThe school district received 61 e-mail comments about the proposed plan: 30 opposed, 14 in favor and 18 neutral. The following are excerpts released by the district.”I see the teachers at school so late so many nights in meetings! I truly don’t know how they have time for their families and their own rest. I think that the school, the students and the teachers would all benefit tremendously with this small change in the schedule!””Our teachers need our support, and this seems like such a small effort, that could make such a huge difference.””So much time was lost this year in meetings, meetings, meetings. If we would stop and really assess current programs instead of adding more, we might find more time to teach the kids and impact their learning.””This proposal will create after school care problems for our family. It’s likely to create an additional expense as well as negatively impact our work schedules thus impacting income/earnings.”Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4628 or at email@example.com.
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