District 15 administration decided during a more than two-and-a-half hour public forum Saturday, to issue a new survey after a considerable response from parents relating to proposed schedule changes for the 2013-2014 school year.
During the emtionally charged Community Communication Forum at Sundling Jr. High School, more than 150 people attended to either weigh in personally or learn more about proposed early or late starts for the next school year, that according to District 15 parent Lisa Szczupaj.
Around 70 people actually got up and spoke against options given to parents on a recent D15 survey.
The schedule changes are meant to allow for more teacher development time.
Superintendent Scott Thompson started off the forum, Szczupaj said, by explaining the details behind the late start/early release concept.
A number of parents, according to Szczupaj, questioned the validity of the survey, and interrupted Thompson as he spoke.
Thompson also explained that re-negotiating the verbiage of the contract with the Classroom Teachers Council (CTC), relating to what schedule changes would be made, could jeopardize negotiated savings expected to help the school district become more financially solvent in the future.
Results of the online survey also were provided in the presentation, according to Szczupaj.
They included 1,638 responses broken down (in order of popularity) as follows:
- 502 voted for a late start on Mondays
- 455 voted for an early release on Wednesdays
- 348 voted for an early release on Mondays
- 333 voted for a late start on Wednesdays
In addition to the District 15 survey votes, comments on those surveys from 205 people indicated they wanted to have Friday early release as an option, but it was not given as a choice in the D15 survey.
In his comments, Thompson did state for a second time, that an early release Friday would not be the optimal time to provide training and development for teachers, according to negotiations between the district and the CTC.
Also in the survey, 79 people said they do not prefer late starts, no matter what day of the week and 113 stated childcare issues relating to late starts would be a major obstacle for their families.
As far as the options available to parents, 184 said none included on the survey were agreeable to them.
A caveat of the negotiated terms between District 15 and the CTC was that if there was an ‘overwhelming response’ from parents against proposed schedule changes, revisions to it would be considered.
“I asked District 15 administration at the forum, what would quantify an overwhelming response?” Szczupaj said.
Szczupaj said she was told by Thompson he did not know, and that it would have to be definted by the CTC. There was no representation from the CTC at the forum Saturday.
Szczupaj has led the charge over the last month in opposition of schedule change options provided by the district through a Change.org petition.
The petition requests a Friday early release option be entertained by the school district (not included on the District 15 survey presently), which has already garnered 795 signatures online as of this writing, and 340 more hard copy signatures totaling 1,135 signatures in all, she said.
Six out of the seven District 15 Board of Education members attended the meeting Saturday, three more than previously were expected. Only Peggy Babcock didn’t make it, due to family medical reasons.
Another request from a parent included creating a community forum made up of parents to help represent parent and children in the conversation. Sczcupaj said no decisions by District 15 for or against the idea were made at the forum.
The new survey will include a question first asking if parents prefer an early or late start, and then go on to ask what days of the week would best suit family schedules, Szczupaj said.
Thompson also said he was committed to getting the survey out to more parents than the previous survey. Complaints about the online survey have included that families who do not have internet access are not being counted in the survey, because they are unaware of it.
No timelines were given on when the new survey would be available, but Thompson said it is the district’s best interest to move the process along quickly.
As a whole, Szczupaj said parents were very happy by the end of the meeting.
“All indications were that [District 15] heard our concerns, and we have some level of input," Szczupaj said.