Wacky Wednesday Plan to cut 90 minutes may be legal, but isn’t right
by Sharon Crews, West Peoria, IL
District #150 has too many “irons in the fire,” and the latest—the Wacky Wednesday plan to cut 90 minutes from the primary school day to give teachers a common prep period has been deemed “legal,” but it certainly isn’t “right” for students.
District Watch, whose efforts against the earlier 45-minute per day plan were successful, is continuing its efforts to oppose the Wednesday plan.
Superintendent Ken Hinton did not admit to being swayed by the group or public opinion. According to board minutes, he scraped the 45-minute-per-day plan “because the initial plan as brought forward and supported by the Board could cause a financial hardship for our families.” He failed to acknowledge that the old plan (and the new plan) would shortchange students educationally.
As a retired Manual teacher and a member of the District Watch group, I beg the readers to call or send e-mails to board members Gorenz, Ross, Spangler, and Wolfmeyer to ask that one of them—that’s all that’s needed, just one, to reverse the Wednesday decision—to make a motion to call for a new vote on this plan.
Even though school starts in a month, the work of implementing this plan is barely underway. Frankly, at any point between now and August 26, reverting to last year’s full-day Wednesday schedule would be far easier than implementing the new schedule. At the July 7 board meeting, Hinton implied that implementation would be carried out by principals, who are just returning to work, and by teachers, who arrive when school starts.
Hinton also indicated that individual principals would also be responsible for finding activities “to utilize the time in the most effective way to see that the students are engaged.” I don’t believe any decision has been made as to what these activities will be or whether or not these activities will be for all children ousted from school early, for just the students at Title I schools, for just students whose parents can afford to pay for afterschool programs, or for the students who are just hanging around school with no place to go.
The original shortened-day plan was to be a cost-cutting measure. The new plan is anything but a money saver especially since Hinton has announced that he has contacted and plans to hire an overseer (another highly-paid administrator) to insure the plan’s success.
Absolutely no one who has opposed the plan is against common planning time for teachers. However, Hinton has consistently made public statements that indicate that he considers an argument against a shortened day to be an argument against common planning time.
Even though Hinton has continuously touted the educational importance of lengthening both the school day and the school year, he justifies his current change of mind by saying that adding the time to the teachers’ day would cost money.
The money issue is an important one to taxpayers and to teachers. The district pays teachers at the Edison schools extra for a longer day that includes common planning time. Next year’s Manual teachers will be paid over $6,000 each for this extra time to collaborate. The same is proposed for the new Glen Oak and Harrison Schools.
Doesn’t it seem fair either to end the longer teacher day and extra pay for teachers at those schools or to extend the same time and financial benefits to the teachers at all District #150 schools? However, the issue of common planning time and compensation should be worked out during next year’s negotiations with teachers. Students should not be “caught in the crossfire” with a loss of instructional time.
Hinton has continually ignored all the offered suggestions to find time within the present school schedule for common planning time. The opposition has continually asked that efforts be made by teachers in 2008-2009 to experiment with common planning in time already available and to offer suggestions to help the central administration and board to set up a well-thought out proposal for the 2009-2010 school year. Imagine that!
Hinton has come very close to guaranteeing that this plan will result in immediate improvement in test scores, etc. What if this common planning period does not result in a significant rise in AYP scores? Will the teachers be blamed as they were at the “old” Manual? Will next year’s scores at Manual go up because its “new” teachers will be paid over $6,000 for the added collaboration time? Loucks Edison had the common prep time—not a “miracle cure,” was it?
Surely, no one believes that teachers can teach all the same material that was taught last year—while losing this large chunk of time this year (54 hours per grade level—216 total). Yet Hinton has not acknowledged that curriculum changes are needed to eliminate material or to move it from one grade level to the next. More than likely, teachers will be held accountable for the same material they taught last year.
Union leadership has been strangely quiet on this issue. Hinton has intimated that the union is pleased with this decision. Personally, I don’t believe that teachers, in general, favor the plan.
Please, those of you Peorians and West Peorians—whether you have children in District #150 schools or not, e-mail or phone Hinton and board members to let your voices be heard.