WELLSBURG - When the Brooke County school year begins in a few weeks, students, parents and staff will be adjusting to a new schedule that includes later pickups by school buses on Mondays and more staff meetings aimed at improving state test scores.
Kathy Kidder, superintendent of schools, confirmed school buses will be picking up all Brooke County students an hour later on Mondays to allow teachers to meet to discuss strategies for improving reading and math scores on the state achievement test.
Amy Talbott, a science teacher at Wellsburg Middle School and parent of local school children, said she can envision the inconvenience that change will be to working single parents of small children.
But at Monday's school board meeting, she expressed her main concern: that the meetings take away from students' instructional time.
"As a parent, I am livid. As a teacher, I'm more than upset because I don't think we're doing our kids justice," Talbott told the board.
Talbott said in addition to one hour each Monday, Brooke County school officials have allocated 42 minutes of every day at the two middle schools for Professional Learning Community meetings.
Kidder said during the meetings, teachers of English/language arts, math, science and social studies will gather to discuss and develop new teaching strategies.
Valerie Smith, the school district's curriculum director for grades 6-12, said the move is intended to help schools raise their reading and math scores and meet the status of Adequate Yearly Progress set by the No Child Left Behind Act.
Signed into law by President Bush in 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act requires states to set clear and high standards for what students in each grade should know, to measure student performance and to produce annual state and school district report cards reflecting progress.
Adequate yearly progress is defined by law as a proficiency in reading, demonstrated through state test scores, by at least 69 percent of pupils at an elementary school, 74 percent of pupils at a middle school and 72 percent at a high school; and a proficiency in math by at least 63 percent of pupils at an elementary school, 61 percent at a middle school and 57 percent at a high school.
Students at schools that receive federal Title I monies and that have failed to meet the new guidelines may transfer to another public school at no cost to their parents.
Smith said teachers will be encouraged during the PLC meetings to develop teaching strategies that apply to the learning styles of every child.
She said teachers also may meet with students and parents during that time.
Talbott said she's not opposed to PLCs but the number of hours allocated for them is "overkill."
She said under the new schedule, she will have 35 minutes to teach each class after she has taken roll.
Kidder said teachers at Brooke High School had the same amount of time when its schedule included eight class periods, and it's a matter of proper time management.
Board President Jim Piccirillo said he's concerned about the number also and that the PLC time be used only as it's intended. But he added there are many newer teachers in the school district who may benefit from the collaboration.
He asked when staff was advised of the change and if parents had been notified. He was told notices about the change in bus schedules were sent home with students at the end of the last school year.
Talbott said staff were told about the PLCs in the spring but a fellow teacher had submitted an alternative plan she and others hoped would be adopted.
Kidder said she welcomed the teacher's input but it didn't address some aspects covered by the present one.
Piccirillo told Talbott the board will consider her concerns, but it's too late for it to change the schedule for this year.
Following the meeting, Kidder said while the core subject teachers are in PLC meetings during the school day, students will participate in intramural sports or personal exercise programs, character education covering responsible behavior, bullying and other social issues; and existing personal and fine arts courses. Kim Johnson, principal of Follansbee Middle School, said the school last year adopted PLCs on a weekly basis and found them to be successful.
She said when the new schedule was presented, many teachers questioned why they were being held every day. But she said she hasn't received "any real negative feedback."
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)