District May Add Weekly Early Releases or Late Starts

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[quote style=”2″]Survey On Proposal Found at End of Article[/quote]

The Hermiston School District is considering adding a late release or early start one day per week in order to provide more time for professional development for its staff.

The topic was discussed at length during the Hermiston School Board meeting on Monday.

“Over the last six years we saw improvements in student performance and achievement which can largely be attributed to the training we provided our professional staff,” said Superintendent Dr. Fred Maiocco. “If we are truly to become one of Oregon’s premier districts, with outstanding performance in all content areas, we must continue to improve the quality of instruction through consistent and high quality employee training.”

Assistant Superintendent Bryn Browning said evidence exists which demonstrates a direct correlation between improved student achievement and regular, consistent, and job embedded professional development for staff through the utilization of Professional Learning Communities.

“Research shows that one-and-a-half hours per week, or three hours every other week, is what is required to provide adequate time for professional development,” said Browning.

The Hermiston School District was one of the early initiators of the Professional Learning Community Model in Eastern Oregon. Six years ago Hermiston set aside approximately 40 minutes every week for teacher training either before students arrive or after they leave.

“The difficulty with our current model is that teachers are unavailable to parents and students during our Wednesday trainings before and after school,” said Browning. “Additionally, the short time allotted is not sufficient for staff to carefully analyze individual student data and align, modify, and plan instruction and interventions to ensure student learning success.”

Deputy Superintendent Wade Smith presented the board with an analysis of what comparable-sized and regional districts are already doing. Smith noted that a majority of districts are already allocating significantly more time for teacher training than Hermiston allows for its staff.

“Most districts of comparable size, as well as most regional districts, have already carved time out of their student day once a week to allocate for professional development,” said Smith. “Although we were an early initiator with the Professional Learning Communities Model, we failed to allocate sufficient training time each week.”

Smith shared research which shows that most five-day-school-week districts of comparable sizes to Hermiston have already incorporated an hour or more per week by making minor adjustments to the student day. Most smaller, regional schools utilize non-student days or half-day Fridays to incorporate their time for training.

“From Hood River to La Grande, and the Tri-Cities to Central Oregon, Hermiston is lagging greatly behind most school systems,” said Smith.

“We are surely not here to recommend a four-day school week or two-hour weekly late starts, but we feel we must do something differently to address our woeful lack of quality professional development time for our staff,” added Maiocco. “Our goal is to balance the needs of our professional staff with that of our community and stakeholders in the hopes that we can find an acceptable compromise to improve staff training and student outcomes.”

Following comments from the school board, district administrators discussed a survey of stakeholders over the coming month about this proposal. Following community input, the administration will recommend a course of action to the board at their upcoming May school board Meeting.

“I think you are on the right track with your analysis and pending proposal,” noted Hermiston School Board member Greg Harris. “I was surprised when I joined the board that we as board members seem to receive more time and professional training than most of our teaching staff.”

Members of the public are encouraged to participate in the online survey.