Lawrence teachers propose changes to collaboration time, citing concerns that too often the focus of the time is dictated by the district rather than at the school level.
Collaboration time, has been controversial since it started at the beginning of the 1998-99 school year.
Wednesday's contract negotiations between the Lawrence Education Assn. and the Lawrence school district offered no exception.
Collaboration time is the 90-minute period every Wednesday when elementary and junior high students are dismissed early so that teachers can "collaborate" on issues of concern.
First-grade teachers, who attended the contract negotiations, said collaboration time is so full of required activities that they don't have time to use the time slot the way it was intended.
First-grade teachers throughout the district are undergoing new reading initiative training this year. The training requires them to be out of their classrooms one afternoon each month. In addition, all the teachers must use two collaboration days each month to work on building activities and two days for district issues.
"Our concern is that even though we love the reading initiative, it takes tons and tons of time," Quail Run first-grade teacher Barb Forbes said. "I would like to use collaboration time to go to the literature library and come up with plans. We can't do that. My fear is that if we don't get time, the reading initiative isn't going to get the attention it needs."
Under the current plan, the reading initiative training will advance to second-grade teachers next year and third-grade teachers the following year.
The teachers are looking for fewer collaboration days devoted to district issues in favor of using that time for building activities within the schools.
During days devoted to the district, teachers meet in large groups that often include representatives from each building, and the time is controlled by district administrators. School principals control the collaboration time devoted to building activities.
Nettie Collins-Hart, director of curriculum, acknowledged that the current use of "district days" has not lived up to initial expectations.
"We oversold and overextended in what we thought we'd get in two (monthly) district days," she said. "The problem is that we haven't prioritized and it doesn't work well for staff development."
Although no decision was made, Collins-Hart said she would recommend dispensing with mandatory district days next year.
However, Collins-Hart said there has to be a time when teachers can converge for district activities, whether it's during a regularly scheduled school day or after school.
District and teacher representatives will look into the matter further at the next scheduled round of negotiations, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. March 17 at the District Service Center, 3705 Clinton Pkwy.
Teachers have stated in previous contract talks that they favor keeping collaboration time at the elementary levels.
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