PSD back to the drawing board on early release plan

Posted 5/24/22

Parents surveys missed the mark, board member says By John McLoone PRESCOTT – The Prescott School District administrative team has some homework to do until a final proposal for a district-wide …

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PSD back to the drawing board on early release plan


Parents surveys missed the mark, board member says

By John McLoone

PRESCOTT – The Prescott School District administrative team has some homework to do until a final proposal for a district-wide early-release schedule gets a vote next month.

At the school board meeting Wednesday, May 22, a plan for early release each Monday for 1-1-1/2 hours was discussed, using data from teacher and family surveys. The district stau would use the time for collaboration and planning toward making the district even better.

However, parents in the district raised concern because they were merely surveyed on when the early release time should be, not on whether they support the idea. That data will be collected prior to the next board meeting June 15, as well as a plan for transportation of students and childcare options. A board discussion will be held that evening, and a special meeting will be set up the following week for a vote on the early release proposal.

Teaching collaboration time in the school day schedule is nothing new in Prescott. The school district had six half-day early releases built into its schedule several years ago and then varied between late start days and early release days through 2019.

Director of Teaching and Learning Mike Kosmalski called the collaboration time “an innovative solution that aligns with strategic board direction.”

The board gave the go-ahead in February for a pilot program in February for the remainder of the school year with an hour weekly district-wide early release. The Prescott School District is set up as a Professional Learning Community, which data shows leads to gains in student achievement. Teacher collaboration time to make sure student needs are met is an integral part of the PLC concept. Higher Malone Intermediate School math scores and the district’s second-best ever ACT scores are testimony to the fact that the early release program is working, stau said.

High School Principal Josh Fiege told the board that this year’s junior class scored sig- nificantly better than projected on the ACT, though he said public release of the scores is still embargoed by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

“We do better when we work as a community,” said Fiege. “That’s what this is really about.”

He said teachers need the scheduled meeting time because their time before and after school is often devoted to helping students, committee meetings and coaching.

“If you look at logistics alone, it’s impossible for teachers to get together during the day,” he said.

He said that teachers are now tasked with helping students with social and emotional needs, as well as academics.

“The job in education is getting more dif- ficult," said Fiege.

Of this year’s early release time, he said, “This has been the saving grace and has allowed us to push forward.”

He said that this year’s junior class had a predicted ACT score average of 19.5.

“They exceeded that by more than a pointand- a-half. They had one of the highest scores Prescott has ever seen,” said Fiege. “I would attribute a lot of that to our teachers being able to work together.”

The survey that went out to students and stau showed that Mondays were a good compromise. For parents, 68% preferred early release on Friday afternoon, though 71% picked Monday as their first or second choice. The district received responses from 377 families, representing 51% of the student population.

For stau, 61% preferred Monday, while 29% preferred Friday.

Kosmalski said that Monday works better overall, because ideas that come up in meetings can be immediately put into action the rest of the week.

“The momentum to carry things over the weekend is divcult," Kosmalski said.

Kosmalski said the 1.5-hour time frame is being proposed because it makes more time for meaningful meetings after teachers get children situated on buses and tend to other end-of-the-day matters.

As part of the proposal, the school day likely will have to be lengthened by 10 minutes, so the district meets state educational time standards.

Board members expressed opinions of support to the concept but want more data on what families will need as far as childcare options.

Under the current release, principals said that more than 80 families are utilizing child- care ouered by the district during the early release time.

“That’s an important piece of it to make sure we have childcare provided. Childcare for me needs to be part of the deal,” said board member Tanya Holub.

Board member Steve Sizemore said that parents should have been ouered a question on the survey as to whether they support the early release proposal in general, not just what days they would accept it “I think the survey was a big disconnect. It didn’t answer the questions I need to have answered,” he said. “I don’t sit here to vote for just myself. We’re also here to understand what our constituents want, to understand what we’re asking of them. It seems to me there’s a little bit of a miss there with the survey. I think we have a couple more questions to answer.”

Kosmalski said the survey was refined to be brief, under the idea that the program is best for student achievement.

“To ask parents, ‘Do you want the best for our students?’ What parent is going to say no,” said Sizemore. “We need to work in partnership with parents where there’s a shared burden. I don’t think some parents think we're in a partnership…I don't think we mined deep enough when we had the opportunity.”

Board President Mike Matzek said he was one of the board members who worked with administration on the survey.

“We felt we wanted to strip it down to make it as simple and easy as possible to get the data we felt we needed. I’m not sure we did either,” he said, responding to Sizemore. “I agree with your point, though, from a parent perspective, on allowing the parents to answer a question of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ I support this. Maybe that’s an opportunity I missed.”

By the June meeting, a plan will be developed for transportation, if it’s going to be at early release time or at the end of the day.

Childcare proposals will also be ouered.

“Those are things we have to follow up on,” said Superintendent Dr. Rick Spicuzza.

New board time

The board will move up its monthly meeting time to 6 p.m. for the next year. It currently meets at 7 p.m. Meetings are held in the Performing Arts Center at Prescott High School.