FY'20 requests aim to improve management, more planning time
The seven elementary principals appear to be requesting a total of 10.34 full-time equivalent positions in next year's budget, as well as higher numbers in succeeding years, and a joint statement explaining their pleas included a chart, which drew questions at the Dec. 20 School Committee meeting.
The statement cited a list of challenges facing their schools, expressed appreciation for the positive impact last year’s funding had on their schools. Read the full statement and chart from Thad Dingman, Dallin; Karen Donato, Thompson; Mark McAneny, Bishop; Karen Hartley, Peirce; Michael Hanna, Stratton; Stephanie Zerchykov, Brackett; and Kate Peretz, Hardy >>
“I just don’t understand the chart,” committee member Jennifer Susse said. Other committee members echoed her question. They expressed difficulty in determining whether the columns reflected the five-year goals, fiscal 2019 funded requests and/or fiscal 2020 requests.
Chair Kirsi Allison-Ampe said she was unsure whether the first column revealed the five-year goals or the current state of staffing. Member Jane Morgan said she was confused as to what was the overall ask.
Finally, in frustration, member Bill Hayner said he wanted “to ask through the chair for a chart that simply stated what you have got and what you want.” Committee member Paul Schlichtman added that the chart should also indicate the five-year goals for each category of requests.
Assistant principals' roles
Moving to take up the substance of the requests, Morgan, referring to the request for an additional full-time equivalent for an assistant principal, commented, “I am not getting a lot of data for this big ask” and questioned the school principals how the assistant principals funded last year were used and what were the benefits.
Dingman, the Dallin principal, described the various ways his assistant principal contributed to his school -- providing guidance to teachers, triaging student issues and participating in day-to-day decision-making. He described the position as a "job-alike colleague." As an additional administrator, the assistant principal gives Dallin “balance and feedback.”
At that moment, a Dallin mother sitting in the audience spoke up. She said a small group of boys met every week with the assistant principal. She told the committee that this group was having a positive impact on her son.
Hardy also received an assistant principal last year. Its new principal, Peretz, detailed the advantages of an assistant principal and gave examples of how the need for an assistant principal emanates from a number of changes in schooling.
“Discipline is no longer punitive,” she said. “Managing behavior now looks for ways [for students] to thrive and grow which is very time consuming.”
Second, “As numbers of students grow, principals’ jobs become unmanageable,” she said, adding that elementary schools are now “approaching 500 students.”
What an assistant principal contributes, Peretz, said, was multitiered levels of support. In addition, she continued, “A principal needs people on the ground forming relationships” on a day-to-day basis.
Committee member Len Kardon asked the principals about long-range planning. He queried them about whether they were looking for full-time assistant principals in the future and asked them for their priorities.
Dingman replied that “we are in the first stages of using this resource” and will know more later on.
Mark McAneny, of Bishop, said, referring to assistant principals, “some is good, more is better.” He stressed that the goal is not to “make our jobs easier, but allowing the kids to thrive.”
Seeking full-time specialists
Morgan noted that requests for full-time specialist have increased from year to year. For next year, the principals’ request is for an additional 5.1 full-time-equivalent specialists, shown on the chart. That number was corrected during the meeting to 5.94 and rounded off during discussion to 6.0.
[Editor's note: The numbers reported in this summary are based on the following reading of the principals' chart: the five-year requests are in the left column, and those for fiscal 2020 only are in the right column.]
Morgan inquired whether “We have to go for the whole thing” next year, or could the specialists be added a few at a time over several years?
Stratton Principal Michael Hanna replied that the 6.0 FTE specialists allow for a new model of scheduling and “We need the full ask to make it work.”
Superintendent Kathleen Bodie supported this request because “It is increasingly challenging to do scheduling now because specialists are shared [among schools].” Moreover, she added, the full-time specialist would become part of the school and make possible scheduling which would allow teachers in a subject area to meet together once a week.
Assistant Superintendent Roderick MacNeal Jr. also supported the request for more full-time specialists. He reported the “need for consistency across the district in common prep time and team time.” He also saw the benefit of full-time specialists ”being a part of the school community.”
Special Education Director Alison Elmer stated she “fully endorses” the plan to hire full-time specialist for each school because of the improved scheduling. Now, she reported, there is great difficulty in aligning our schedule with teachers’ schedules because specialists are split between schools. She said the result is, “We cannot achieve a lot of what we want to achieve because of the schedule.”
Hayner reminded the committee that the argument for the one-half early-release day each week was for teacher to have more common planning time and questioned how this additional time will be used. MacNeal responded that the full-time specialist would allow for common prep time per grade five days a week and a once a week team time with the principal.
Committee member Len Kardon suggested that while this plan had merit, it might be better discussed at the Budget Subcommittee meeting and then brought to the full School Committee. Other committee members agreed that this would be the best approach.
AEA requests support principals
Marion Nolan from the Arlington Education Association, the teachers' union, read the report from the association for their requests for the elementary schools and also for the Menotomy Preschool. The AEA requests for the elementary schools were striking similar to those of the elementary principals and included increasing specialists and social workers in all schools. Read the full report >>
Additional requests include a gifted-and-talented program in all the elementary schools. The rationale is that high-level learners deserve time for specialized instruction. Elementary school teachers recognized this need but do not have the resources to furnish these students with a program.
The AEA also recommends that the Menotomy Preschool requires a full-time building substitute to cover classes in cases of meetings, sickness and professional development classes.
One committee member responded to the AEA requests. Jeff Thielman expressed some hesitation about the gifted-and-talented program as “a large undertaking.” He asked whether there had been any internal discussion about how this program would be organized. Nolan replied it could be scheduled during the block when other students are taken out of class for interventions.
Bodie contract talks
At the beginning of the meeting, the committee went into closed session to discuss entering enter contract negotiations with Superintendent Bodie. Members emerged at 6:55 p.m., voting 7-0 to do so.
This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018.
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