Collegial vs. classroom time: District seeks solutions

GOSHEN COUNTY – Although the proposed four-day school week – voted down by the Goshen County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees 7-to-2 at a meeting Feb. 12 – proved divisive in the community, most residents agree they want teachers in the classrooms more.

Last year, district-issued surveys showed 74 percent of parents are concerned about the amount of class time teachers miss due to meetings; and 78 percent believe having teachers in the classrooms more will increase student achievement. In addition, 98 percent of staff are in favor of a calendar that puts them in the classroom more often.

“We will look at, perhaps, changing the way we implement our collegial time – that was the factor that motivated these folks (the four-day calendar committee) to devise the proposed schedule,” GCSD Chair Katherine Patrick told the Telegram last week, adding the process to develop alternative solutions is in the “embryonic stage”.

“We would like to have something in place for the next school year,” she said.

Collegial meetings are collaborations during which educators determine standards and common assessments, consider data, and identify methods that work to impact students district-wide. At the second of two public hearings regarding the four-day school week, Lingle-Fort Laramie Principal and member of the Four-Day Calendar Committee Cory Gilchriest said L-FL loses 553 hours of instruction time each year due to teachers being pulled for collegial meetings.

“We were trying to figure out a structure to continue that work without losing class time,” he said. Using the four-day model, teachers would have met on Fridays when students weren’t in school. 

“It’s a challenge for all of us. We agree (collegial is) valuable time we can’t give up.”

GCSD Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Data Management Donna Fields said, while the district is not federally mandated to meet collegially. It believes the work is crucial to student achievement.

“In the federal grant, GCSD 1 has selected the Professional Learning Community Model to follow for school improvement, and we write into the grant the expectations of a Professional Learning Community,” she explained. “The highest achieving school districts in the state follow the PLC model for school improvement. 

“We expect our teachers to create and have a clear understanding of what is essential for our students to learn regardless of the school they attend or to the teacher to whom they are assigned. We expect our teacher teams to have a system in place to monitor our students’ learning by a standard that is common across the district. At the building level, when a child is experiencing difficulty in learning, we expect that child to receive meaningful additional time and support. In addition, for the children that are proficient or advanced, we expect the schools to have extension and enrichment built into their learning. 

“In order to create a true Professional Learning Community, it takes a lot of time to create a systematic approach and that is what our collegial times and professional development days are used for in the district,” Fields continued. “Our teachers, administrators, and staff are working hard to get this system in place to ensure high levels of learning for all students. We are not there yet, but we are working very hard to make this happen for the students in Goshen County.”

A district administrative team, which includes Fields, interim Superintendent Rick Patterson, and area principals, is currently working to develop a solution separate from the four-day school week proposal to both continue collegial work and keep teachers in their classrooms.

Look for future Telegram articles on the subject as more details become available.


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