District 65 administrators and most board members continued to insist Tuesday that more in-service training for teachers requires more inconvenience for families.
Despite complaints from parents that raising the number of early dismissal days creates hardships for working parents, Superintendent Hardy Murphy argued that achieving the board’s goals for improving educational practices requires increasing the number of days kids are sent home early from school from five this year to seven or possibly nine next year.
Murphy and most board members seemed to reject — at least for next year — alternatives such as clustering teacher training into additional full-day sessions, providing more training online or after the regular school day, or even holding the in-service sessions on the day before holiday breaks.
They also rejected as unworkable under the current teacher union contract ideas of extending the school year beyond the minimum now required by state law.
One parent said each early dismissal day amounts to an added tax on working parents who would have to skip work or hire child care service for the extra hours.
If you figure 26 children for 90 minutes at just $10 an hour, that’s nearly a $400 cost to provide the teacher an hour-and-a-half of training, the parent said.
Some board members did support the parents’ concerns. Bonnie Lockhart said, "I just feel like we’re not looking at the big picture and what works best for all involved."
But Andrew Pigozzi said that while he’d received over 100 e-mails from parents on the subject, "If our goal is higher achievement, if we want to close the gap, then we have to pay the price somewhere." The way to get better results, he said, is with additional training.
Some board members voiced objection to nine early dismissal days, but it appeared a majority would accept seven. The superintendent, who initially proposed seven and raised the proposal to nine for Tuesday’s meeting, said he would provide another revised schedule for discussion at an upcoming board session.
Parents in the audience were disappointed with the board response.
Gretchen Livingston of 2320 Forestview Road predicted that as more parents hear about the calendar plan the board "will get a real backlash."
She said that while professional development may improve student performance, time spent is class is also critical to success — and the board is headed in the wrong direction on that.
Rhonda Present of 546 Michigan Ave. said the school district is insensitive to the needs of working families and the impact of the calendar on the economic situation of families and parents’ ablity to care for their children.
But she praised suggestions some board members raised for possible future extensions of the school year or school day, which are expected to be part of the discussion at the board’s long range planning meeting on Feb. 23.