Sunday, June 15, 2008

Political football

Great editorial in the PJStar today about the *new* proposal from Ken Hinton regarding how much time the district should take from the school day to create common planning time for teachers. It should come as no surprise that my answer would be -0- minutes. And its not that I don't agree that common planning time could be a good thing. It might be the greatest thing since protein shakes, it just has not been demonstrated that the results of its implementation are so profound we should shorten the school day for it.

Although I appreciate the District's efforts to listen to and address our concerns, I still remain befuddled as to why any time at all should be taken from our school schedule, especially when many children within the district are already failing academically. The best analogy I have heard so far is that if someone takes $100 out of your wallet, and offers to give you back $60, you are still out 40 bucks!

The wisest most prudent way to proceed is to do what many in the district have been proposing from Day one: table the implementation of this plan for one year, renegotiate the teachers contract with the common planning goals in mind, work out all the bugaboo's, then instate it with a bang the next school year.

The new plan, although a large improvement over the initial one, is really not even a plan. It is more of a position statement, summed up in a whole half page on the district website. There continue to be many details that have not been addressed, including whether or not the revised plan would need further bargaining with the teachers union, whether the new day would meet state requirements, the status of the specialist teachers and that pesky question regarding the 5th grade classes that are included in some of the primary schools. In fact, the details of the new plan are so unclear, that even the status of the middle school schedule is unknown. It is like a gigantic grab-bag of surprises a mere 8 weeks out from the beginning of the new school year.

Mr. Hinton has held up the Park Ridge/Niles school district in the Chicago Suburbs as a model of his aspirations. We have spoken with one of their administrative staff -Mr. Roger Stein. Mr. Stein told us that it took them well over a year to implement this model. Many details needed to be worked out - transportation, working with the Teachers' Union, using teachers' meetings to prepare teachers as to the DuFour model, and district administrators collaborating with building administrators. He emphatically stressed that without at least one year's planning prior to implementation this model would surely fail. He was extremely adamant about that point.

I have also spoken with Scott Schieffling the head of the teachers union. He sounds like a reasonable guy. I believe that with open honest and respectful dialogue between the district, the community and the teachers union, we can make make this happen with a logical and measured progression of events and achieve all of our mutual goals. I just don't see it happenin in 8 weeks.


Anonymous said...

FYI (and you probably know this anyway)--there are at least two Dist. 150 primary schools that were able to work in extra prep times for grade level meetings (in other words, teachers of each grade level get common prep times together once a week) for the past couple of years. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

For someone who isn't a journalist I am surprise you actually followed up on Hinton's statement. I just wish a real journalist would have called the
Park Ridges/Niles school district.

Rhonda Present said...


I just wanted you and all of your fellow D150 Watch Coalition members to know that you are not alone in your efforts to save the school day.

Here in Evanston, Illinois, we recently mobilized over 300 parents in stopping the expansion of early dismissal days (these are the days when students are released 1-1.5 hours early so that teachers can have professional development training). And, now we are trying to reverse a last minute decision by the District - made just three weeks before the end of the school year and without any input from parents - to move the start time at three elementary schools to 40 minutes later beginning in September so that teachers can all get to training at the same time. Be sure to check out our latest petition at:

While we are not facing a loss of 45 minutes a day in instructional time (thank goodness), our experiences and the issues we've been grappling with in D65 - like preventing the erosion of the school day and creating a more accountable school system that values and embraces parents as partners in decision making - seem very much the same as yours.

Let's definitely stay in touch so we can learn from and support one another's local organizing efforts. And, maybe down the road, we should set our sights on bringing parents together to work for bigger changes in Springfield and beyond!

Keep up the fantastic work!

Rhonda Present said...

Hi Diane,

Well, I just finally got to adding my long overdue comment to your blog and after hitting "publish" realized that the 45 minute per day
proposal was swapped for the Wednesday only plan.

Oops! Well, at least
most of what I said is still relevant :)

I remain dumbfounded that with all of the concern around academic
achievement, many school officials still don't get that we're in no position to take ANY time away from the school day. Let's definitely stay in touch re: how we can work together to build awareness around this important issue.

Anonymous said...

Diane, I read the comments at Peoria Chronicle. Why do you guys give the board so much credit. They always seem to be bamboozled by administration. If you don't give them the benefit of the doubt, then what are you left with? Pulling the contract of the agenda wasn't their doing. If not theirs then whose? Why? Maybe somebody didn't like what the district was offering and might be holding out. Either way, if the board pulled it because of performance or lack of, then state that. If administration pulled it, what was the offer the board proposed that was turned down and why? I think it needs to be investigated deeper. Quit scratching the surface when it comes to this administration. Dig deep.