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Fox Point-Bayside staff, committees refining middle school schedule

Board will likely review three alternatives

June 4, 2013

Fox Point — Fox Point-Bayside staff will likely present three alternatives for the much debated middle school schedule at an upcoming School Board meeting, district administrators said at a May 30 Curriculum Instruction and Policy committee meeting.

Administrators have been gathering feedback and suggestions from teachers, said middle school Principal Don Galster, attempting to resolve several lingering issues in light of the approaching deadline that is the end of the school year.

District staff have been working with the School Board directives that: the humanities-based, problem-solving course referred to as STEM not be included; courses like band, art and music — referred to as "specials" — be offered all year as they are currently; a "flex" period for teachers to interact with students be included for all teachers and students; math instructional time be increased if practicable; English and Language Arts classes be offered together in a "block" if possible.

At the May 30 meeting, CIP committee and School Board members Mike Weidner and Tim Melchert made informal recommendations to clarify three sticking points teachers have brought up during the schedule discussions.

Counting minutes

Weidner and Melchert agreed that student hallway supervision between classes and study hall periods should count toward teachers' board-established requirement of 1,500 instructional minutes each week. Originally passed for the current school year, the 1,500 minute standard was meant to create equity between elementary and middle school teachers. According to an administrative summary provided to the committee, elementary teachers — who already have passing periods counted as instructional time — all reach the 1,500 minute mark, while middle school and specials teachers were generally around 1,350 minutes.

Several teachers present at the meeting, who have been helping work on the schedule, said that if study hall and passing period minutes were counted, middle school teachers would also be hitting 1,500 minutes.

Teachers also brought up the possibility of rescinding sixth-grade math teacher Sue Haferkorn's layoff, since the district doesn't currently have a suitable candidate for a budgeted full-time literacy coach position.

Not an 'even trade'

Curriculum and Instruction Director Jennifer Ganske said the district's top prospect for the literacy coach declined an offer, and the other two candidates weren't up to snuff.

"The position in still open, but I'm hesitant to hire somebody just to hire somebody," said Ganske. "I don't want to waste that money."

While the open position does free up some funding, Galster said that the literacy coach and sixth grade math teacher positions don't constitute an "even trade." Since the board approved three of 10 possible layoffs for the coming year, and have therefore committed to over-staffing the district in the coming year, administrators and committee members characterized the idea of rescinding Haferkorn's layoff as a staffing expansion.

"I don't think we'd be in a position to expand the staff, if at all possible," Weidner said. "If a literacy coach isn't found, I don't think we would turn around and add that extra staff person."

Melchert said that he doesn't see the idea "rising to the top in terms of priorities."

The School Board's next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 26.

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