Just 12 days into the start of a new school year, District 65 students will be released early today as part of a plan to give teachers more time for professional development training. It’s the first in what will be a series of shortened school days spread throughout the year (although fewer than the District had hoped for thanks to the advocacy efforts of hundreds of Evanston parents).

While I don’t argue with the importance of making sure our teachers are up to speed on the latest technology and advancements in their field, I find myself pondering several questions that I hope are on the minds of our school leaders.  First, I wonder how many teachers will be participating in training this afternoon, what they will be learning, and most importantly, how it will translate into better educational outcomes for my child and yours?  I wonder what impact the shortened school day will have on parents in our community who have to ask their employer for time off or scramble to piece together backup child care arrangements?  And, when the school bell rings an hour and a half early today, I wonder what elementary and middle school students will be doing on their education break?  Will they be supervised and safe or will they be taking the bus home to an empty house or roaming around town on their own because mom or dad couldn’t leave work early?

As for my own daughter, she will be with me at – of all places – a meeting of the D65 Calendar Committee (ironic, huh?).  Although D65 administrators promise a more open process than we’ve had in the past – including regular posting of agendas and minutes on the web site and alternating between afternoon and evening meeting times to accommodate the schedules of teachers and parents serving on the committee – creating a more family-friendly school calendar will likely continue to be an uphill battle.  The reason is that we either need a longer school year or school day to really be able to carve out meaningful windows for teacher training without compromising the time our children have in school and intensifying the work/family juggling game for their parents.  Given the current union negotiation stalemate, it’s not looking too promising.  But, I would argue we have to stay the course and commit ourselves to this goal if we want a top notch public education system that is responsive to the needs of the 21st century family and economy.

Evanston children already have fewer full days of school than their counterparts in neighboring districts and I, for one, think they deserve better.

11 replies on “D65 Dismissal Day #1”

  1. No surprise — no data and no accountability from District 65
    These early dismissal days are a disgrace for many, many reasons.

    When you ask District 65 for the percentage of teachers who attend teacher training, the answer: a lot. District 65 will never, ever give you a percentage on how many teachers attend.

    Also, let’s ask why, in the past, early dismissal days were magically placed on the Friday before a Monday holiday. (I can’t recall if that’s the case this year but it may be.)

    Then, when parents asked the School Board to move all early dismissal days to Friday afternoons as it could be easier for parents to arrange that time away from work, guess what the District answered: oh, no. Teachers won’t come to Friday afternoon trainings.

    Huh? District 65 scheduled Friday early dismissals for days before Monday holidays. But when parents ask for it to be done, District 65 says that they are worried about teacher attendance on Fridays.

    Let’s guess just how many teachers attend teacher training on a Friday afternoon before a Monday holiday. Let’s just call those early Friday dismissals before a Monday holiday what they really are: get-away days.

    Here’s what should be required: District 65 posts the agenda for each and every teacher training session on these early dismissal days.

    If all Grade 1 teachers are meeting at the Hill Center to talk about reading instruction techniques, they’ve got an agenda, right? So post it on the District’s web site. If the Grade 2 teachers are meeting at Willard School to discuss curriculum development on that training day, the agenda must be posted. If they don’t have an agenda for their training session, that says a lot, too.

    We need accountability from District 65 for these training days. Thus far, we get cloudy answers that we should not tolerate for our children or our tax dollars.

    Let’s see what topics are being covered in these teacher trainings during these early dismissal days. Then we, as parents and as taxpayers, can decide whether District 65 is giving us value for our money and a better education for our children.

    1. Good Ideas
      Now, this is a strategy and response I agree with. Perhaps a review of their financial records would at least explain if they purchased training consultants or something.

  2. Education – Not Daycare
    I agree with all of Rhonda’s comments regarding what will teachers be learning, and will students be benefiting from it. (I personally believe they will). However, as a parent, the fact that the school day is shortened may effect my work schedule is irrelevent. School is not daycare.
    Yes, a shortened school day effects my work schedule but it is not the school’s responsbility to make sure that policies that benefit the school fit into “mine” or anyone elses work schedule.
    Further, it is not the school’s job to have programs/create programs/babysit/ or wonder what my child is going to be doing during the extra hour and half of “break time”. That’s my job, its called parenting. It’s not always fair, cheap, the political correct thing to do, and certainly not easy but in the end it’s my responsibility to make sure my child is safe and supervised, not the school.
    So let’s not have any innuendo that its the school’s fault or there is something wrong with it. There isn’t.
    I’m not a fool either, there will be parents that have serious problems finding daycare (or affording daycare) or having an understanding employer. But those situations are not the fault or responsbility of the school.
    So I join Rhonda Present in working to make a more family friendly school calendar. But I also am keenly aware of what are the schools responsibilities and what are mine at the end of the school day.

    1. Who is asking for daycare?
      Yes, yes…as parents, we are responsible for our children’s safety and care. I think that we can all agree on that.

      But Rhonda raises several very valid points about the absolute insanity of the current system. Where did she cry out for daycare? She wants better teacher training so the teachers can better educate our children. She also wants some semblance of “reasonableness” in how a school district conducts its affairs with our families.

      Let’s take your argument to its conclusion: we are responsible for our children so we should all just stay home and raise them without sending them to school because schools are only providing daycare. Now, it would be silly to make that argument. But it’s also diminishing Rhonda’s argument to claim that she’s just looking for daycare.

      Rhonda, like many of us, would like District 65 to treat parents with some respect and realize that these policies instituted by District 65 have a real effect on families. District 65 needs to use common sense in adopting policies and abandon its “my way or the highway” approach to any and all parent concerns.

      1. My reply
        I did not say school was only providing daycare. I responded to Rhonda’s wonderings about what a happens when the children leave early and the effect on parents work schedule.

        Cleary I’m stupid so tell me how my argument that after school care, including care required for my child due to a shortened day is my reponsiblity not the school’s means “we should all stay home and raise them without sending them to school because schools are only providing daycare.”

        Further explain to me how my arugment that again how the shortened school day effects my work schedule is my problem not the school’s means “we should all stay home and raise them without sending them to school because schools are only providing daycare.”

        I agree with your other points, but as a parent, I also have to be flexible and realize that schools job is not to fit my schedule, or a “family schedule”, its to educate children. Now, I realize that any smart school system can’t ignore their relationship with parents, indefinitly. But I am aware of what the school’s primary goal is and understand that they structure their school calendar to try and meet those goals.

        1. “but as a parent, I also
          “but as a parent, I also have to be flexible and realize that schools job is not to fit my schedule, or a “family schedule”, its to educate children.”

          I don’t think there’s a working parent in Evanston who hasn’t put considerable effort into seeing that his or her children are taken care of after school, and who hasn’t been flexible above and beyond the call of duty.

          There are 250 work days in each year and 176 irregularly-scheduled school days in each year. You do the math, then you tell me — with a straight face — exactly who is being flexible.

          District 65 and DEC have a choice. They can totally disregard the needs of families in this town, or they can make it easier for families in this town. From where I sit, District 65 and DEC have chosen to disregard the needs of families.

          1. Where are your numbers from
            If what you say is true i.e. “176 irregular scheduled school days” then I would agree with you. Put where are you numbers coming from?

            I visited the Dist 65 website (www.d65.k12.il.us) and counted all of the irregular day’s excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas recess, and spring break on the school calendar. I came up with 20 irregular days listed. In fact it was in red letters saying important date for families. Please show me the information that says 176 irregular days.

        2. Not stupid but not everyone is responsible or can be flexible
          I’m not certain why you resort to the “I’m stupid so…” response. But here are facts:

          Some parents have work schedules with no flexibility. I have heard of parents who were told either don’t miss any more days this year (or half days or leave early) or you’re fired. They can’t come in early and leave early. They must be there 9 to 5 or else. And for some employers, mentioning that you are leaving early because of your children is seen as a lack of dedication to your job.

          Then what if that same parent is a single parent who, due to long working hours, doesn’t know anyone in his or her neighborhood and no family members live close?

          Then there are other parents are not responsible and do not supervise their children after school, whether the school day ends at 2 p.m. or 3:25 p.m.

          Another fact:
          When District 65 cuts school days short throughout the year, has institute days (read: days off), has other “non-attendance days” (read: more days off), has many “government holidays” that most employers don’t give (example Columbus Day so read: even more days off), it hurts those children who are unsupervised. They may not be your children or my children but they are members of our community. District 65’s bone-headed scheduling leaves these children more vulnerable to injury and worse.

          When District 65 stubbornly insists that parents lose day after day of vacation time due to District 65’s inflexibility in scheduling, that affects our families and we need to care.

          Teachers could get trained through one full day in the fall, one full day in the winter and one full day in the spring. That’s three full days of training and three days that parents could plan in advance. But District 65 will never suggest it because it would appear that they are bowing to parents’ concerns.

          Maybe you’ve had wonderfully understanding employers. But some of the ones that I’ve worked for insist that you take one-half day of vacation if you leave two hours early. If school lets out 90 minutes early, that’s what you need to do — leave two hours early. So that means with all of these randomly-scheduled days here at there as “non-attendance days” or early dismissal days, my 15 days of vacation time and personal time were GONE due to District 65’s complete infexibility.

          So much for taking the kids to see grandma and grandpa out of state or going camping for a three-day weekend. I had to take all of my vacation days so that District 65 could schedule teacher training exactly as it pleases. And this continues for at least 9 years — kindergarten through 8th grade of District 65. That’s a long time for any parent to keep up a no-vacation lifestyle.

          Just some sanity from District 65. That’s all parents want. We don’t want daycare. And we are not trying to schedule time for manicures and massages. (Yes, I’ve heard that that argument was tossed around by School Board members in private — that parents don’t want early dismissal days because it cuts into their personal life, including time at the salon. Yeah, right! I’m working a 60 hour week and I can’t remember the last time that I had a manicure or a massage.)

          We want quality education and a school district that recognizes these legitimate concerns by those of us who must work to pay both our mortgage and our ridiculous taxes so they can keep their jobs.

          1. your way or the highway?
            I hear the issues of parents who don’t like the early dismisal days but there are just as many (or more) who prefer early dismissal days to full days off school. And here are just a few of the reasons …

            if a parent has after school care in place (at the school, the y, a neighborhood parent, etc) they typically take the children early on early dismissal days and therefore the parent does not have to miss work at all

            it is much less disruptive to many kids (special needs and otherwise) to miss an hour and half of school (barely noticed by my kids) than an entire day off schedule (those three day weekends can be tough to recover from at my house)

            teachers can learn and retain information better if taught in multiple sessions than a full day of new information

            finally, for the children who go home to empty homes everyday, it is much better that they have contact with a grown up (teacher) and in some cases their only hot meal of the day (lunch) than to be on their own for entire days

            I appreciate your arguments and opinions but please do not pretend to speak for “all parents”

  3. disruptive schedule for the children
    I realize I speak as a parent of a special needs child, a child who needs routine in order to thrive. The early dismissal day so early in the year, when the routine is barely in place, threw both my special needs child and my other child completely off, and I guarantee today is a lost day for them instructionally because they are totally discombobulated. I completely support additional teacher meeting time because the differentiated instruction push that has been instituted this year necessitates A LOT of meeting time for coordination and feedback, but I am not sure early dismissal days are the way to handle that piece. Only time will tell.

    And I have to say, as someone who works in Evanston, the number of unsupervised children throughout Evanston at 2pm yesterday was somewhat shocking. As a community we need to be looking at the safety of children who are summarily dismissed to the streets at 1pm.

  4. Accountability
    I’m still waiting to see exactly how much money was saved on the bussing by changing the start time to 9 am.

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