Members of the Kyrene schools governing board have voted to increase the amount of time teachers get to plan for art, music and physical education, resolving months of intense discussion on the matter.
The 4-0 vote drew applause from staff and community members.
“I believe we have agreed that we need to make some improvements for this next year, based on feedback,” said Dr. David Schauer, district superintendent.
In June 2011, the board voted to change the scheduling for art, music and physical education to 45 minutes once a week for each subject.
“We really wanted to make sure there is equitable planning time for special-area teachers, that we support our traveling teachers with some of the challenges that are present in their schedule and really work to prioritize the curriculum standards…,” said Dr. Gina Taylor, assistant superintendent.
“For a few of our teachers, their only planning time is at the campus that they consider their ‘away’ campus; without their materials, it’s just not the best circumstance for a teacher.”
Most art, music and PE teachers travel to and from other campuses throughout the week.
During the board meeting, teachers expressed the need for the change to reduce the number of sections for the 2012-13 school year, and commended the board for approving the motion.
Jennifer Kilgard, who has been teaching music in Kyrene for the past 18 years, said:
“This certainly has been a challenging year for all special-area teachers; I wanted to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you very much for considering the recommendation of 29 sections as a full-time load for special classes.”
Kilgard added that this is a workable schedule for those teachers and also gives sufficient planning time during the day for classes.
Longtime special-area teacher Brenda Mulkey said since the decision was made last year to cut the existing model to once a week—for 45 minutes for all areas—teachers have encountered “major difficulties with our schedules, our curriculum and our ability to offer long-standing traditions at our site, such as music performances, art shows and special-event programs.”
“While we will certainly have more details to work out with our schedules for next year, the reduction to 29 sections for all special-area teachers is a huge step in the right direction,” Mulkey said.
“I would like to thank Dr. Schauer and his team for stepping up and doing the right thing for this group of teachers. We appreciate you so much.”
Taylor said that the district will continue addressing special-area changes for upcoming school years.
“I want you to be aware that this is a decision for one year…and that we will work with the (special-area) task force to create a different schedule for the following school year,” Taylor said. “We’re really looking at all the ways we can get feedback about what were doing.”
By Jennifer Pillen Banks
Kyrene schools superintendent Dr. David Schauer created a milestone of sorts with his first-ever “state-of-the-schools” live broadcast, a webcast designed to be viewed and participated in by gatherings of parents at local schools and libraries.
Joined for the live event by a panel of education leaders, Schauer said the webcast is one of many new communication methods the district is exploring to find the best ways to reach the most parents.
“People just have such busy schedules,” said Kyrene Community Relations Manager Nancy Dudenhoefer.
“Making time for in-person meetings at the school can be challenging for parents.”
The district already communicates with parents via Facebook, and all board meetings are now available via Youtube, enabling parents and others to view them whenever convenient.
“The live webcast is just the next evolution,” said Dudenhoefer.
The presentation panel included Kyrene Board President Michele Hirsch; Educational Support Professional Liaison Mike Williams; Kyrene Education Association President Erin Kirchoff; and Kyrene Administrative Council President Lisa Gibson.
Much of Schauer’s presentation focused on Kyrene’s “Blueprint for Schools” (available on the district’s website), which includes three broad educational goals: improving student achievement at all levels; attracting and retaining top-quality teachers and staff; and creating fiscal stability.
He also shared data from the auditor general’s report, “Arizona School District Spending [Classroom Dollars] for Fiscal Year 2011,” which favorably compares Kyrene’s use of funds with that of other school districts around the state.
According to the report, Kyrene’s administrative cost per pupil ($463) is well below that of its peer-group average ($648).
Kyrene also has the highest percentage of classroom dollars when compared with other districts similar in size and make-up.
The entire report may be viewed online at www.azauditor.gov/Reports
Schauer also shared the results of surveys given to students, parents, and Kyrene staff.
Following the webcast, viewers could ask the panel questions by typing them into computers available at each school viewing locations.
While this first webcast tested the district’s ability to broadcast to and take questions from Kyrene’s 25 school locations, the district’s goal is to eventually broadcast to all individual homes, so that “no one has to come physically to the school,” said Dudenhoefer.
“We’re trying to give our parents options of different ways to be involved, whether onsite, at the district, at school or from home.”