Gilford board insists on keeping prep times for high school teachers

GILFORD — The School Board on Monday night rejected Superintendent Ken Hemingway suggested calender for 2014-2015 school year that included 15 instead of 24 delayed-opening days at the high school.

After a considerable amount of discussion, the board settled on 21 days — considerably more than the nine delayed-opening days mandated by the recently renegotiated union contract but less than the 24 the teachers have this year.

On a delayed opening day, student arrive at 9 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m., giving teachers two hours of preparation and coordination time.

The rational, said School Board member Kurt Webber, who told Hemingway he would not vote for the calender as it was initially presented, was that board was told the teachers at the high school needed more preparation time.

Member Paul Blandford said he recalled that the delayed-entry days were created because the board had learned that two math teacher had entirely different curricula and entirely different grading standards but were supposedly teaching the same class.

"There is no good reason to reduce the number of delayed entry Wednesdays," Webber said, adding he wanted to go back to the 24 days so the faculty could do "sufficient preparation."

Principal Peter Sawyer said the teachers were "not happy with 15 days at all." He said his personal feeling was 21 days would be enough but said he could live with 18.

At the elementary and middle school levels, the teachers have early student-release days for planning and coordinating curriculum. However, because of athletics and the Huot Technical Center schedule, the high school is unable to let students go home after a half day.

There are nine early release days in the 2014-2015 calendar.

According to School Board Chair Sue Allen, the delayed-openings came about during the administration of former Superintendent Paul DeMinico for the purpose of giving high school teachers more time to coordinate their curriculum toward competency-based grading.

"We wanted to make sure all of the teachers were on the same page as to expectations of student learning," she said.

At the time, Allen said the board and the administrative team determined 24 days of delayed entry — or roughly 48 hours of planning without students in the building — was the appropriate amount of time. It is also consistent with the number of hours elementary and middle school teachers have for planning through the use of early release days.

"I'm very sensitive to the issue of equitable time," she said, referring to the amount of time teachers get to plan and coordinate at each of the three schools.

At their meeting, the equitable time issue between the three schools was briefly discussed but Webber said he wasn't buying it.

"I want the administration to tell me why a schedule at the elementary school should effect one at the high school," he said.

Hemingway said he and the current administrative team believe much of the coordination of curricula has been accomplished as part of the district's planning for the Common Core implementation and that 24 days is more than what the teachers need.

He told the board he wanted to get more instructional time or "seat time" for the students.

"It's always been about "seat" time verses teacher preparation time," Allen said yesterday. "It's a very delicate balance."

The calender also set August 27, 2014 as the first day of school, with the last week in February as winter vacation and the last week in April as spring vacation.

In other school district news, the board voted unanimously to go forward with Phase I of the Gilford Meadows Athletic Fields project.

Allen said Phase 1 includes preparing and seeding the multi-purpose field closest to the Gilford Meadows Condominium along Intervale Road and installing irrigation for the football playing field and the new practice field.

She said they are looking to seed in mid-August so the new field will be ready for fall of 2015.

Allen said the goal is to always have a multi-purpose field and the football playing field available during the multi-phased project.

The project is being constructed through in-kind donations coordinated through the Gilford Meadows Committee and money raised through donations and events.

Hemingway also announced the date of the golf tournament that raises money for the fields is May 17 at Pheasant Ridge Country Club. Hole sponsorship will be $125 and it is $90 to play in the tournament. Anyone who wants to play or sponsor a hole should contact the SAU at 527-9215.