Consensus or even positive bargaining seem to elude most of our elected officials. In the Kyrene School District, though, a group of determined volunteers apparently have succeeded in coming together with a unanimous decision.
The district’s Elementary Special Area Study Team used a technique, known widely as interest-based problem solving, to review scheduling options for Art, Library, Music and Physical Education, collectively referred to as special areas.
The study also was designed to consider any other solutions that might improve on the district’s current system of allowing a 45-minute special-area into students’ schedules.
Interest-based problem solving encourages participants to share information and explore issues in order to achieve consensus, according to a district spokeswoman. This structured approach provides a process for team members that is collaborative while remaining focused on the development of mutually beneficial solutions.
The Kyrene team was led by Carrie Furedy, principal of Kyrene del Milenio Elementary School, and Mary Jane Rincon, the district’s assistant director of staffing and recruitment. It also included a mix of special-area and classroom teachers.
Two years ago, Kyrene adopted its current once-a-week schedule for the special areas as a result of budget cuts, which threatened to eliminate these elective subjects altogether. Instead, the current arrangement resulted from the recommendation of an earlier study team.
Principal Furedy presented the team’s findings at a study session of the Kyrene School Board on Feb. 12, recommending retaining the current special-areas schedule. The group’s decision came after the team considered various alternative schedules and the size of a school’s enrollment.
“Any change in the schedule was to be cost-neutral,” said Furedy, “and once all the variables were considered, such as teachers’ travel schedule between schools, it was decided that the existing schedule provides the best opportunity for students to receive instruction in the special areas.”
Even though the new study team did not change the current schedule, study-group participants, school administrators and district board members agree that the review remains a valuable tool for further discussion.
“We know that these programs are important to Kyrene families, and it’s critical that we look at our programs periodically and make sure they are the best solutions possible,” said Michelle Hirsch, Kyrene board member.
While budget challenges remain in the Kyrene district, the Special Area Study Team agreed that it was a positive that there are no current plans to cut the affected programs.
“The assignment was a pleasure, and as a team we feel that we were productive and we worked together in a respectful way that allowed for honest and open dialogue,” said Furedy.
The team agreed that as the budget becomes more stable, the members would welcome an opportunity to re-visit the issue and expand the opportunities available within the special-area framework.
By: Diana Whittle