T he Tahoma School Board has asked the district to come up with some alternatives to the proposed Monday late start in response to teacher and parent concerns.
“From the comments that I’ve read [online] and heard, Monday late arrival certainly isn’t very popular,” said board member Mary Jane Glaser in front of a packed room at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
I’m dreading it
The Monday late start was proposed by principals at the March 27 school board meeting. The district has been collecting feedback from teachers and the community since that time.
Currently, teachers meet for professional development during three full-release days and nine early release days. With the new weekly release proposal, the principals wanted to give teachers more frequent and consistent time to collaborate. Most surrounding districts have done the same.
Under the proposal, classes would start 90 minutes late every Monday. But because the current release days would be eliminated, over the course of the year the new schedule would subtract just three additional hours of instructional time. Read more about the original proposal HERE.
Though some parents have said that the Monday late start will be a nice way for their families to ease into the week, Glaser and board President Didem Pierson said that many parents seem to favor Friday early release or Wednesday late arrival. Some have argued that starting the week on time benefits both parents at work and kids in school.
“A big concern for me is what will happen to those students who cannot stay home by themselves,” Pierson said. Pierson said she “won’t be able to sleep” until she knows parents have an affordable day care option for those 21 additional shorter days per year.
Financial Services Director Lori Cloud said that the current Extended Enrichment Program would be available just as it is now for early release and waiver days.
“We don’t turn anybody away,” Cloud said.
Several teachers spoke to the board during the public comment period of the meeting, including Scott Mitchell, president of the Tahoma Education Association, the teachers’ union.
Mitchell said the union opposes Monday late starts. The principals who made the initial proposal argued that teachers would be freshest on Monday mornings, but Mitchell told the board that teachers are professional enough to participate meaningfully any day or time.
“Even if [the fresh-on-Mondays] statement were true, students deserve to have teachers in the classroom when they are at their best,” he said.
Mitchell said that other districts took up to a year to choose a weekly professional development time in consultation with teachers and others in the community, and he encouraged the Tahoma board to do the same.
“I think that professional development is essential … and I feel that a weekly model could benefit students,” he said.
Superintendent Mike Maryanski stressed that he was the one who had encouraged all of the district’s principals to devise a professional development schedule without initial community input. He did this, he said, because they are held accountable for their staffs’ performances. Now the district is seeking feedback on their recommendation.
Tahoma High School Principal Terry Duty told the board that the principals liked Monday late starts in part because they guarantee more annual instructional time. That’s because several holidays fall on Mondays, so a school year has more Wednesdays and Fridays than Mondays. Therefore, choosing Wednesdays or Fridays for a late start or early release would mean losing more overall class time.
He noted that the principals are open to changing the proposal — as long as the change allows for frequent collaboration time. “We aren’t set on Fridays, Mondays, Wednesdays, late start — we want to look at the consistency piece,” Duty said.
One of the concerns at the high school is managing the weekly release with the school’s “blue-gold” block schedule. Maryanski said few local districts follow the same type of block scheduling — in which students have three long classes every other day rather than the same six periods in a row each day.
AP European History teacher Martina Morgan told the board that the nationally developed AP curriculum is tightly managed. Shortchanging Monday classes but not those on Tuesday would complicate planning.
“I’m dreading it,” she said. “AP is a beast. It’s a content-driven-type program, and every second sometimes counts … I have 700 years to cover, plus skills.”
Tahoma High School teacher Leanne Shipley said the late starts would cause vocational students who leave school early to lose 20 percent of their instructional time.
Glaser asked the district to show her what the blue-gold block schedule would look like under the Monday late start, a Wednesday late start and a Friday early release.
Maryanski and Duty said that the middle school and junior high principals oppose the Friday early release because hundreds of kids participate in after-school activities such as sports — and they cannot transport themselves as easily as high school students can.
“We’d be asking them to ride the bus home and come back to school an hour and a half later,” Duty said.
Pierson wondered whether the district could devise an “out-of-the-box” hybrid model that would create a longer time for professional development regularly but not weekly.
Maryanski said the district would take the following six steps at the board’s request:
- Develop alternatives to Monday late starts, such as a Wednesday late start or a Friday early release;
- Consider a hybrid option;
- Look more closely at the impact on AP and vocational students;
- Examine how surrounding districts handle early release with after-school activities;
- Ensure that families have day care options;
- Discuss issues with bargaining units.
“The most important thing is to have a good model for professional development that will benefit all of our learning community … and we want parents to understand the value of it, and we’re going to hope that our plan is acceptable to more than just a simple majority of parents,” Glaser said.
Strong professional development in recent years has helped improve the district’s performance, she noted.
“If you look at how Tahoma does more with less, it’s quite admirable that our district is among the top 5 percent of districts in the state of Washington, and we want to keep it that way.”
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