Students in District 15 will be released early on Friday afternoons so teachers can use that time for professional development, an arbitrator ruled Tuesday.
The arbitrator has been reviewing District 15’s proposals for scheduled teacher professional development time after officials could not come to an agreement.
The arbitrator ruled that release time for professional development in District 15 will happen through early release – meaning students will be dismissed earlier than usual on those days, district officials say.
The early release will begin on January 31, 2014, and take place on Friday afternoon throughout the year.
The issue went to an arbitrator as a result of a grievance being filed by the Classroom Teachers' Council (CTC) after the school board voted in early May in favor of early release Fridays, instead of late start on Mondays or Wednesdays. The latter times were preferences of the CTC, according to District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson at one of several meetings leading up to the vote.
Thompson and District 15 Board President Peggy Babcock issued a joint release Tuesday saying, “We are currently preparing the daily schedule for each school; these schedules, along with bus schedules, will be sent to parents as soon as they are finalized.
Please rest assured that we are committed to working together to implement this decision in a way that will positively affect students and teachers, while making an effort to cause the least impact for parents as possible. Consequently, you will be receiving regular communication from the District in order to give you the necessary information to make this transition.
We are focused on providing the best education for the children we serve in order to equip them for future successes. In keeping with that commitment, we recognize that professional development time designed to equip teachers with the necessary skills and tools is vital if we are going to meet the high expectations we have for student learning in the District.
We also recognize that change can cause complications and inconveniences. Please know that we will work to limit these and quickly move to a smoothly operating school system that provides your child with the best education possible.”
District 15 parent Lisa Beth Szczupaj who led the charge for early release Fridays now is urging residents to mark their calendars for October 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. That night there will be a Board of Education Community Communiation Forum, where a launch plan for the Late Start/Early Release decision will be talked about.
Dozens of parents, in addition to Szczupaj, came before the school board during multiple meetings from January through early May, claiming the alternative - a late start on Mondays or Wednesdays - would be more difficult for parents to manage relating to transportation and supervision of their children, especially for single and working parents.
Later that month, the CTC filed a grievance stating their contract terms with D15 had been violated.
At issue is the definition of 'overwhelming opposition' in the CTC contract with District 15.
The contract states, "Weekly release of students by means of late start except that the concept of late start may be amended to an early release in the event there is overwhelming opposition from parents in the District 15 community during the development and stages prior to implementation."
The problem is, no clear metrics have ever been defined as to how 'overwhelming opposition' would be quantified.
Szczupaj said there were roughly 300 more emails fielded in favor of development time for teachers occurring Friday afternoons, as well as 352 hard copy signatures on a petition.
A survey released by District 15 on the issue was taken by 12, 236 people. The highest number of votes - 1,479 - were in support of an early release on Friday.