By Emily Bialkowski
Now is the time to speak up and ask questions if there are any concerns about instituting late start Wednesdays for the 2013-14 school year. Caledonia Superintendent Ben Barton said he is committed to providing teachers the needed time to network and train and will bring the item up for vote at the April 15 school board meeting.
Two separate but similar situations are pushing this recommendation.
First, the state is saying teachers need job-embedded professional development and better evaluations. It takes time and money to get teachers such practical training, so the district is proactively applying to become part of the state’s Quality Compensation for Teachers program, or Q Comp. The program gives the district $169 per pupil unit if it adheres to all kinds of standards, including an hour of teacher development each and every week.
Second, the legislature is going to force districts to provide such training anyway, regardless if Caledonia becomes a Q Comp partner or not.
“Keep in mind that so much of it will need to be done no matter what, and we need to find money to do it,” Janelle Field Rohrer, Q Comp committee member and teacher, said.
How it would work
Teachers will report to school at 7:30 a.m. each Wednesday and participate in Peer Learning Centers (PLCs). Students will report to school at 8:40 a.m., a half hour later than the normal start time.
“Whether we go into Q Comp or not, I feel that having the opportunity for staff to work in a PLC is the right thing to do and our students will benefit greatly as a result. Quite frankly, you’d be hard pressed to find a district that isn’t doing this,” Barton said, adding that he believes the district needs to improve “100 fold” on teacher training.
His words foreshadowed another matter he shared later in the meeting.
The 75-page Q Comp application the district sent to the department of public instruction was reviewed and sent back with five pages of questions and recommendations. Caledonia has just 30 days to rewrite the application. So, at this point, it’s very much up in the air if Caledonia will be selected to participate in Q Comp and the funding opportunity it offers.
School board member Melissa Marschall said she had a few constituents ask if the district would consider an early release. “That thought was brought to me,” she said.
School board member Amanda King and Barton both said that idea was considered, but such an arrangement would not best serve teachers.
“The rationale was that teachers would learn best and be more effective during that time,” Barton said of a morning schedule.
King added that if the PLC took place after school, it would be easy for teachers to be pulled away by student or parent needs. She said that if a parent walked in at 3 p.m. and asked to speak with a teacher it would be hard for that teacher to say, “No, I have to go to my PLC.”
Barton added, “One thing I heard over and over is you have to make that time sacred – if this is going to work, it’s got to be sacred.” He said teachers will have agendas and be held accountable for what takes place during PLCs.
No decision was made. Barton said he intends to run the idea by teachers one more time and bring it to the school board for official vote.