Purdy school board agrees to expand Late Start Mondays

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Non-core teachers ask for time to collaborate, join training

The Purdy school board approved a major revision to the Late Start Monday program, expanding it to involve all certified teachers, beginning next school year.

Associate Superintendent Mindi Gates explained that the program, as it had been set up, provided great benefits for teachers in core subjects, who had an extra hour to collaborate and study new teaching techniques each week. Difficulties arose in that teachers in electives did not share in the benefits.

Buses, Gates observed, continued to run at the same time as on a normal school day. Teachers not participating in the training ended up watching students until classes began after 9 a.m.

Several teachers addressed school board members wanting ways to benefit from the additional training. Music teacher Lauren Lee said non-core teachers have felt the unintentional consequence of feeling less valued because they are unable to participate.

"As non-core teachers, we often feel alienated," Lee said. "We hear of discussions about things like common assessments and have no idea what they are talking about. We didn't know there was a common assessment calendar. We could help schedule things better.

"Others are doing data tracking, and we don't know what that looks like for them. If we could have a fine arts team. We're all performance based. We can look for common words and assessments used for all grades."

Michelle Hilburn described the advantages the Late Start Mondays have made possible. She has seen teachers working backwards to earlier grades, most closely aligning what students need to know from grades 5 through 12. The collaboration has led to a great increase in rigor, Hilburn said, and sizing up which areas of study are less essential for student success.

"We have to follow a strict assessment schedule," Hilburn said. "If we're all on board, we can schedule field trips at other times that don't conflict. I'd like to eventually see common rubrics, what to expect across the board in writing."

Gates proposed improving the program by delaying bus routes on Mondays. Instead of running at 6:45 a.m., buses would all run at 7:45 a.m., with breakfast continuing until 8:10 a.m. Gates speculated many students come early simply because of the time buses run. Only half the students arriving eat breakfast, and they manage to finish in 15 minutes with plenty of time to head to class.

All teachers could then work on professional development training and collaboration during the first hour. Superintendent Steven Chancellor said A+ students could help watch younger students during the first hour, or Gates suggested assigning paraprofessionals. Chancellor felt very few households would have concerns over leaving children at home for an hour by themselves, if parents had to leave for work on Mondays before students went to the bus. He observed the change would only affect Monday mornings, an easier adjustment than later in the day.

Other activities have competed for time during the first hour on Mondays, such as Intervention Hour, where struggling students receive extra help. Gates suggested a re-examination of how to better meet the needs of those students.

Board members expressed support for the Late Start Mondays professional development.

"I think all of us are concerned," said Board President Randy Henderson. "You can definitely see the different. If these guys are telling us they need the time, we need to listen to them."

"That is our time to develop our teachers," Chancellor said. "By default we're not developing some of our teachers. Historically, when you look at districts who have tinkered with their time, they have consistently found it wasn't as big an issue as they first thought. This way we reduce the need for full-day professional development. I don't think our expectations will decrease."

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