Could Wake County teachers be meeting in the mornings this fall instead of in the afternoons for their professional learning community time?
That's an idea being explored by school board member John Tedesco. In that scenario, teachers would meet in the mornings with the possibility of delaying the start of classes.
Whether that option will be doable this fall is a question.
The model that Tedesco is talking about was used before this school year at some high schools.
For instance, Sanderson High's regular schedule in 2008-09 was from 8:05 to a.m. 3 p.m. But on Tuesdays, teachers would begin meeting in PLTs at 7:30 with the school day officially starting at 8:30, The 7:30 start wasn't a problem because teachers are supposed to arrive 30 minutes before classes begin.
Wake NCAE President Jennifer Lanane, who served on the committee that recommended the Wednesday early dismissals, said they didn't advocate meeting in the mornings because it would prevent teachers from being able to extend the meetings past an hour,
Sanderson High School Principal Greg Decker said that having the time at the end of the day also allows him to observe the various PLTs. Before this year, he was among the staff who monitored students while the teachers met.
Lanane had previously opposed releasing early on Fridays. But she urged board members after Tuesday's student achievement committee meeting to use Friday if that's what it takes to keep the early dismissals.
But both the options proposed by Tedesco and Lanane might not work because of the new bell schedules proposed for the 2010-11 school year.
As you guys recall, school was lengthened by 10 minutes a day this school year to build up enough time to allow schools to dismiss early each Wednesday.
The resolution the new board majority adopted on Dec. 1 that ended the Wednesday early dismissals after the end of the school year had called on the superintendent to make no other adjustments to the school day or calendar.
But the bell schedules proposed for this fall eliminate those extra 10 minutes.
Bob Snidemiller, senior director for transportation, explained that the old board's decision to add the time at the end of the day for the first tier schools while adding it at the beginning for the third tier schools had cut their bus window by 10 minutes. He said it had led to more late buses on the third tier.
Snidemiller said keeping those extra 10 minutes for this fall while also serving 2,000 new riders and four new schools could take 50 additional buses, double the amount he said is needed to put schools back on their 2008-09 schedule.
Barring the board coming up with the money for 50 new drivers, plus the additional buses before Tuesday's bell schedule vote, the banked time will be gone for this fall.
The loss of the banked time might not make it possible to start school later one day a week. Schools like Sanderson had a long enough day that they could lose 30 minutes a week and still stay above the state requirement of 1,000 instructional hours a year. Elementary and middle schools may not have that option.
Tedesco said he'd check with staff if they could still do the late starts and stay above 1,000 hours without the banked time.
The loss of banked time probably means you can't dismiss school early once a week.
The school board needs to decide soon on alternatives. The resolution adopted by the board in December said they had to develop a plan by the end of this school year to accommodate the PLTs this fall.
The message board members got at Tuesday's committee meeting is that professional learning teams/professional learning communities do work. The board heard from groups from five schools that have been holding PLT time since before this school year.
Teachers talked about how the PLT time has allowed them to better educate their students.
Sanderson High School teachers credited PLTs with sharply raising the school's Algebra scores to among the best in the district.
Millbrook High teachers credited the PLTs with reducing the failure rates in Earth Science, among other topics. Principal Dana King thanked the board for having scheduled the PLT time this year.
Fuquay-Varina High School teachers credited the PLTs with lowering the dropout rate and raising test scores. Principal Ed McFarland called PLTs the most important tool for student achievement he had seen in 15 years.
Heritage Middle Principal Dhedra Lassiter credited PLTs with raising the school's state end-of-grade math scores.
Northwoods Elementary teachers credited PLTs with raising the percentage of first-grade students performing at grade level. Principal Kerry Chisnall asked the board to change its decision to end the Wednesday early dismissals.
Click here for the Northwoods Elementary presentation.
Click here for the Sanderson High presentation.
Click here for the Millbrook High presentation.