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Classes will start a half-hour later on professional development days at the Vashon School District next year

By NATALIE MARTIN
Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber Editor
June 26, 2013 · 6:14 PM
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Classes will start a half-hour later on professional development days at the Vashon School District next year.

Superintendent Michael Soltman said that extending late-start mornings from two hours to two-and-a-half hours on 15 professional development days next school year isn’t ideal but is necessary to help teachers implement a slate of new state requirements.

“As educators, we all regret and resent that we have no choice but to make a trade-off between student contact time and professional development for our teachers,” Soltman said.

The district originally scheduled 16 three-hour late-start days next school year, and a calendar approved by the school board and posted on the district website listed the change. But when district officials looked closer at the high school’s new six-period schedule, the three-hour late start seemed to shorten classes too much and didn’t line up well with bus and ferry schedules, Soltman said. He also heard from two district parents concerned about cutting further into instructional time.

“In the end, it really didn’t make sense to do it,” he said.

The late-start extension on Vashon came just weeks before the state Superintendent of Public Instruction publicly criticized Washington schools’ increasing use of half-days on school calendars. Randy Dorn, who appeared on KING5 news, said half-days were a burden on parents and took away from classroom instruction time and he would push for legislation to limit them.

Soltman, however, called Dorn’s comments unfair. Over the past several years, the state has cut funding for teacher in-service days, he said, forcing districts to incorporate professional development time into regular school days, as late-start or early-release days still count toward the 180 school days required by the state.

Faculty work time will be even more vital next year, Soltman said, as teachers in all grade levels will be adjusting their curriculum to meet new state standards and will also be learning and completing a new statewide teacher evaluation program. While some work can be done during summer faculty development days paid for by local levy funds, more professional development during the school year is needed, Soltman said, and the state simply isn’t funding it.

“I find it to be extremely disingenuous on (Dorn’s) part and a response to pressure from the press without any sense of the reality of the situation that in fact his agency has helped create,” Soltman said.

Jenny Granum, a math teacher at McMurray Middle School and the outgoing president of Vashon teacher’s union, agreed that no teacher wanted to lose instructional time next year, but new standards called for additional teacher work time.

“I know on late-start days, when I only have 30 minutes with my students, it’s next to impossible to get a lesson accomplished in that time,” she said. “No one wants to cut contact time with their students. It’s a tough situation.”

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