It appears District 181 board members still need some convincing that late starts are the best way to provide additional professional development time for teachers next school year.
“I thought this one would be an easy one for me, but it’s not,” board member Marty Turek said at the board’s April 8 meeting at Elm School.
The eight two-hour late starts during the 2013-14 school year have been proposed by District 181 administration as a way to provide professional development for teachers as the district implements its new Advanced Learning Plan and the nationally mandated Common Core.
The late starts would align with those on the District 86 calendar, in an attempt to reduce inconvenience to families.
For working parents who can’t stay home the extra two hours on those days, the district would offer morning child-care “for a fee that covers actual costs only,” a board report from Superintendent Renée Schuster reads.
The late starts are currently included in the proposed 2013-14 calendar. The final calendar is expected to be approved at the board's May 28 meeting.
No board member voiced total support of the late starts last week. One member, Yvonne Mayer, said she was “completely opposed” to them (though her term will expire before the board’s vote), and several others said they were curious about alternatives that would be both in the interest of families and within the constraints of the district’s contract with its teacher union.
Schuster said two possible alternatives are early releases and the use of substitutes while teachers attend professional development sessions during classroom hours.
“With anything, you have to weigh the pros and cons,” Schuster said.
Early releases, Schuster said, would cause scheduling issues for extracurricular activities, and the substitute alternative does not provide for district-wide development sessions, which Schuster said the administration wants to increase.
The superintendent said the late starts remain an idea only.
“We’ll come back with it flushed out more before we ask the board to make a decision,” Schuster said.
Turek said he preliminarily favored the idea of early releases, which seem less disruptive.
Board members said they've received many letters from the community on the issue.
District 181 parent Vivian Hessel of Clarendon Hills said during public comment last week she thinks late starts “are a terrible idea” because they will take instructional time away from students and represent lower expectations for teachers when those expectations should be raised.
“Late start days will also put undue burdens on families, especially burdens on two-parent working households like mine, and single-parent working households because this will be another scheduling task,” Hessel said.
A parent survey is being distributed Monday to get the community’s wider opinion on late starts. There are also two upcoming public meetings on the ALP, where late starts and professional topic will be among the discussion items, on April 25 and May 2. More information on the meetings can be found here.