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The New Era Paper
Sweet Home, Oregon
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January 25, 2012     The New Era Paper
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January 25, 2012
 

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1  :. - January 25, 2012 " COMMUNITV OPINION Page 5 II Schools -From page 1 district officials. He wondered aloud whether that meant the community doesn't really care about whether the district switches to a four-day school week. He asked whether the district could get the information presented Thursday out to the community, and he urged the board to make the decision, make the cuts and rest assured that the community would "meld" into it as it has done for decades. Parent Steve Hiett said he felt "fairly betrayed by the state for putting the School District into this crisis. He suggested that message should be conveyed back to the state. His parents' generation made sacrifices for the children, Hiett said, but he doesn't see this generation making that sacrifice. He also told Schrader that he found "disconcerting" the number of times staff development has come up during the discussion about a four-day week. The four-day week would require teachers to work 17 Fridays in the sample calendar prepared by Schrader, and those days would be used for staff development, while at the same time inci:easing the total hours of instruction time at all grade levels. Hiett said he had a problem with the math on the four-day week versus the five-day week. If the four-day week can net more hours of seat time, then the five-day week could too. He asked why the district doesn't extend the day in the traditional schedule and then cut furlough days from it. Schrader told him that teachers graduate from college with the training they need. but the industry changes. They need to keep up with those changes, such as the upcoming Common Core State Standards being imposed by the federal government in 2014. Every piece of curriculum must be articulated to those new standards, Schrader said. The teachers have gone through the CIM-CAM standards to what they're teaching now. Now they'll have a different standard, and keeping up with changing standards is just one of the things they do in staff development. "'It still seems like we're developing teachers instead of students." Hiett said. Schrader explained that data- driven research helps teachers learn the best practices for their classrooms, and they need to learn these to improve the academic achievement of their students. Right now. they really don't have the time they need for staff development. A four-day week would save the district money while providing that time to teachers and increasing seat time. Schrader said. although extending the "day in the five-day week could be done. Classified staff member Laura Gourley asked Schrader how students are supposed to pay attention during a longer class period, which at the high school level will increase from 49 minutes to about 62 minutes. Schrader said that most of the students at Sweet Home High School have already experienced longer class periods - more than 80 minutes under the five-period day the school used last year. The school returned to a seven-period day and shorter classes this year. It's also the teacher's job to keep students involved in the class, he said. "As a teacher, I'm struggling this year with the shorter class period," said Pat Davis, who teaches social studies at the high school. He liked the longer periods because he could divide them into sections of instruction and practice, reducing the amount of homework he would need to send home. When they're doing their work in class, he's there to work with the students, he said High school art teacher Gelindo Ferrin called his subject "a process- oriented experience. "In 49 minutes, we don't have time to do that." Labs and shop classes are probably similar, he said, and if there isn't enough time, the students aren't getting what they need. "It's important to establish a relationship with every single kid that comes into your room or you start to lose them," Ferrin said. "In art, we can't get the work done at school. I can't help them." Gourley also thought the longer day, with sports activities after school, would leave insufficient time for homework and even sleep. One mother, who was at the meeting, with two children doing their homework at the meeting, noted that they're off to school at 7 a.m. and home after 7 p.m. when they participate in sports. Even now. a student athlete's day can be long, Schrader said. Basketball teams practice late, with one of them ending at 8 p.m. or later; but having no class on Friday can help with the scheduling when teams get back late on Thursday or play on Friday. Davis, who has also been a coach, agreed. "It's not a perfect world with kids getting off the bus at midnight or 1 a.m. from Sisters or La Pine," he said. Schrader said late bus trips were one of the things he struggled with as a parent in Glide, which had a four-day week. It's a concern for many, but "parents and kids, they made it work." Shaft Smith, a staff member at the Boys and Girls Club. which has committed to handling the students on Friday at a reduced rate. asked Schrader what gets cut if the four- day week isn't passed. "Where's that 2 or 3 percent going to come from?" she asked. The savings, $340,000, is roughly 2 percent of the district's budget. Many districts cut junior high sports, Schrader said. One district in Texas cut its athletic programs. Others cut art, music and other programs, he said. He can make the case why those are important too, but he is accountable for results in math, reading, writing and science. "I'm not in favor of the four- day week," said parent Liz Olsen. She said she values family time and questioned where that would fit in under a four-day schedule with a longer school day. "If I could take time off on Friday, I would do that." She said she was also concerned about the potential for negative behavior with stUdents out of school for the day. The Boys and Girls Club will provide structured time for working on assignments, two meals a day and II Open From page 4 an extra $1 billion out of state and local coffers in the next two years, with no new teachers, cops or ser- vices to show for it. Cities and school districts around the state, from Bend and Salem-Keizer to much smaller enti- ties. are citing increasing PERS and other benefit costs as a major factor in their budget cuts. The situation is likely to get worse in 2013, as rates will rise again if the pension fund is still in shortfall. The state is $12.8 billion short in meeting all of the pension benefits owed to the 346,000 other retirees and work- ers. Yes. public records can be a little uncomfortable sometimes. But when yo u work for the public. or you get arrested by public police and taken to a public jail, all paid for by taxpayers, it's information that needs to be available. The other bill before state leg- islators, noted above, is a proposed relaxation of public meetings law. Current law requires members of a public body, such as a city council, school board or fire protec- tion district board, to only discuss public business in an open, public meeting, when a quorum (enough voting members to make a deci- sion) is present. What that means is that our school board members would be vi- olating the law if a voing majority of them gathered in the back room of a local restaurant without provid- ing public notice of their meeting ahead of time, as required by law. to discuss, say, the proposed four- day school week. This bill before legislators would allow "'physically written communications, communica- tions by electronic mail or com- munications using other electronic technology that does not permit real-time communication" (Face- book, Skype). It would also allow members of a governing body to talk with a person connected with a decision they are making. The natural reaction might be. "'so what? Let's'lighten up a bit." But there's a good reason jour- nalists are alarmed by this. Loos- ening the rules requiring public bodies to hold their deliberations in front of their constituents is just further opening the door for public officials who might be already in- clined to bend the rules - and. as any journalist who covers public affairs knows well, the existing rules can be bent very easily and often are, across the nation. Although this issue may not be quite as problematic as cutting off access to public records, such as PERS information, giving elected or appointed officials any chance to do business out of sight of the pub- lic is a very bad idea. The reason records are public and meetings are public is because both involve the public - citizens' business. Just as a boss some- times needs to be able to determine how effectively employees are do- ing their jobs, Oregon residents - taxpayers - need to know how their money is being spent and how their business is being conducted. That's the real issue here and that's why these bills are bad news. monitored play time. Schrader said. "That's definitely a place where I'd send my kids." In a number of districts contacted by Sweet Home officials. "there just hasn't been an increase in juvenile delinquency," he said. "I'm not sure how much crime goes up on Saturday or Sunday when parents are working." Another parent said the only problem with the Boys and Girls Club is that the staff is not responsible for kids coming and going. But Smith said the Boys and Girls Club doesn't allow children who sign out to return, and the club has had only lost track of one child in the seven years she has been there. That child had walked home. Former board member Leena Neuschwander quizzed Schrader about the plan and asked what he thought about using furlough days to make cuts. "I don't like furlough days," he said. "It cuts into seat time. Once you start them. it's hard to get rid of them." The district could take six furlough days this year and still meet state requirements for instruction time, though, Schrader said. People have been talking about taking up to six furlough days next year. The district is trying to save more than $1 million in the next budget, Schrader said. It aniticipates being able to cut $340,000 in a four-day week. Other cuts will include $210,000 in administration, $60,000 in maintenance. $30,000 by changing elementary attendance boundaries, $50,000 in pool funding and spending $200,000 in reserve funds. Personnel reductions will happen through attrition, including three supervisory positions. The district also will need to find an offset to furlough days in place this year, he said. He told Neuschwander that the district has looked at contracting services, such as transportation and food services. The district hasn't done a feasibility study, and he doesn't know whether a cost-benefit analysis would support that change. A new law prohibits districts from contracting transportation services if the savings are derived based on salaries and benefits. $chrader said. Neuschwander asked about a 2-percent pay cut across the board. and Business Manager Kevin Strong said it would save the district about $190.000. That would also be tough to negotiate, Schrader said. Kristin Adams. GEAR-UP adviser for the high school, said that two-thirds of Sweet Home students qualify for free and reduced lunches. It's such programs that's going to keep those students in school, she said. Schrader said he was a teacher in Sutherlin. living in Glide, when the four-day week was implemented in Glide. Two years later, the board voted to return to a five-day week; but the community liked the four- day week so much, the next day, the four board members who voted for it were named on a recall petition. Schrader initially opposed the four-day week too. he said, but by the time he was superintendent at Glide. he had been convinced it was worthwhile. He said when he arrived in Sweet Home. the board asked him to begin looking at the four-day week. a possible budget reduction item raised by former Superintendent Larry Horton. Schrader said he began the process with the idea that the success of all students is the district's deep and moral purpose. Despite funding limitations, the board must make decisions to promote a sustainable budget while promoting that success. "If we continue to spend the way we are and have less money coming in, that's called deficit spending," Schrader said. "And that's not good." State revenue forecasts are See Schools, page 14 Cherrie Carranza Cherrie Carranza of Sweet Home volunteers as the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of- fice and Visitor's Center. She has participated in SAFE for three years. She also volun- teers with Sweet Home Sweet Ride and the junior high Bike Club and math class. "Volunteering gives you an opportunity to make a difference in people's lives in our community," Carranza said. "And I love people." She is married to Mike Carranza. She has lived in Sweet Home for 14 years. "The thing I like best about Sweet Home is the enSe of community ,service," Carranza said. "There re so many people in this community that just want to help others. I didn't know that existed until I moved to Sweet Home."