School Board members question teacher inservice

by Marcie Klomp

“Kids now-a-days never have classes.” That sentence seems to be said every other week by parents and community members in Howard-Winneshiek School District—whenever there is a three-hour early out for teacher inservice.

On Feb. 27, school board members questioned the large number of teacher inservices prior to the mid-August start of school for the 2012-13 school calendar. It all makes sense when reasons are given.

In case anyone is wondering, during the inservices teachers are not just sitting around eating brownies and drinking coffee. They are actually working—trying to come up with ideas to make your student’s learning experience more rewarding.

The state of Iowa has mandated schools and teachers do certain things, such as entering everything they are teaching into a curriculum program, so they will see if there are any gaps in the subjects. During the professional development time, teachers collaborate with each other to find the best way to implement the state’s mandates.

Teachers also work together to discuss each student’s individual needs. Some students are discussed more in depth than others, but each student in How-Winn is recognized.

Board member Duane Bodermann asked about using a full day instead of two half days. Supt. Dianne Anderson said, “We’re looking into that.” But that showcases another problem. The teachers’ contracts call for working 192 days per school year. Adding a couple full-day inservices would force the district to pay them for the extra days.

Cresco Elementary principal Shirley Sovereign added, “I struggle with the early dismissal, but I also struggle with teachers who need time to do these extra things.”

Board member Karlos McClure concluded, “It looks like the early outs are a necessary evil.”

A problem with the early outs is that each class is held for 20 minutes. Teacher Scott Wiley said, “The 20-minute classes are a joke, but it is hard to do it any other way because we have to work with the college (NICC).”

Another item discussed was the earliness of the first day of school. This year, school will tentatively open on Aug. 23.

School is mandated to be open 180 days to get full funding from the state. There will be 85 days in the first semester and 95 days in the second semester. The 85 days take students to Christmas vacation.

High School Principal Tim Felderman explained. “If the first semester continues after Christmas break, students do not do as well. By ending first semester before break, students can start fresh in January.” He went on to say the difference of those 10 days evens out with Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) and other tests taken in the spring.

Anderson said the school calendar is always an issue as new ideas are tried, rejected or modified and changed again the next year. There is no easy solution to setting a perfect school calendar, but one things is clear, it is all centered around what is best for the students.

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