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Board of Education Special Study Session Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015

Elementary, Middle School Schedules

Elementary and middle school schedules were discussed at length during the Special Study Session of the Canyons Board of Education. School Performance Director Mike Sirois told Board members the District is studying the current schedules to ensure they are conducive to student learning. The overriding concern, he told the Board, is to build a schedule that accommodates the required hours of instruction while also safeguarding teacher-planning and collaboration periods. However, he explained, this isn’t always a smooth process when funding for personnel is largely dependent on student enrollment.

School Performance Director Alice Peck told the Board that an Elementary Schedule Task Force has been studying the schedule that was put into place in fall 2014. Peck said feedback on the schedule, which was ratified by the Canyons Education Association as part of contract negotiations, suggests that it doesn’t provide for enough collaboration and planning time and has contributed to low teacher morale. After examining issues and soliciting feedback from teachers, the Task Force created three scheduling options. Teachers were then asked to vote on those options. Peck said that 87 percent of 689 teachers who cast ballots selected a proposed schedule includes early-out Fridays and built-in uninterrupted collaboration and planning time during the school day. The option, called Option No. 2, also calls for trained specialists to provide curriculum-based instruction in such areas as physical education, arts and music while teachers meet to plan and collaborate.

Peruvian Park teacher Christine Bond said the proposed built-in planning and collaboration periods would help teachers maximize time in the classroom. Peck responded affirmatively when Board member Chad Iverson asked if the early-out day would remain constant so parents could adequately plan for child care.  In other words, early out days would on be Friday, under the proposal.  The Board also was told that teachers and administrators believe that collaboration time during the day is critical because planning-time before and after school is interrupted. In addition, the District is aiming to build a schedule so that elementary teachers, like secondary teachers, are given time to plan during the school day. Evidence-Based Learning Director Amber Roderick-Landward said the option favored by the teachers meets state requirements for instructional time.

Sirois told Board members that CSD’s middle school schedule is constantly being evaluated for efficacy. He addressed the challenges that arise as schools try to balance the issues that are inherent when funding for personnel is dependent on the number of students who enroll. Historically, Sirois told the Board, middle school students attended seven classes. Teachers were assigned six classes with one prep period, which allowed for little to no collaboration among teachers. However, research of middle-school education, he said, emphasizes that teacher collaboration is key to student success. He said that extended time in core instruction areas, as well as built-in intervention and acceleration, are important. Maintaining options for electives also is vital, he said. Currently, under the District’s A/B schedule, students attend six 60-minute classes a day, and educators are assigned five classes a day with one prep period per day. This schedule is difficult to maintain if there isn’t a “perfect number” of students, he said. The challenge is compounded when schools must dedicate FTE to special program such as dual-language immersion classes. Sirois said the District also is faced with subsidizing performing arts programs at most Canyons middle schools. The current schedule was put into place to increase rigor in core subjects while accommodating teaming among teachers. The District has experienced success, with a significant number of middle schools scoring the top 25 of Utah schools on recent statewide assessments.

Board member Nancy Tingey asked if the District had solicited parent input. Peck said that School Community Councils at many schools had been given a chance to see and weigh in on the options. She added that the Administration will continue to seek parent feedback.    

Business Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Leon Wilcox told the Board that the elementary schedule endorsed by the Task Force would cost an additional $865,000. In addition, more funding for teachers would help the District maintain the current middle school schedule. Ten extra middle school teachers would cost about $600,000 per year; 15 is about $900,000. Wilcox said funding solutions include property tax growth, employee attrition, utility savings as a result of efficiencies of newer buildings, an increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit, and possible budget reductions in other areas, which will be discussed at the March 10 budget hearing.

Board President Sherril Taylor thanked Sirois, Peck, the Principals, and the teachers for their hard work. 

To listen to MP3s of the discussion, please visit BoardDocs and click  “View the Agenda” for the Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 meeting of the Board of Education. 

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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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