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Archive for Tuesday, May 4, 1999

JEERS

May 4, 1999

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About a dozen parents attended a forum on an early dismissal program and expressed anger at having to listen for 90 minutes to positive aspects the program

Journal-World Writer

By the accounts given by teachers during a public forum Monday at West Junior High School, collaboration time works.

Some parents, however, said it makes them work too hard.

The 90-minute early release program has been in place since the beginning of the 1998-99 school year at the elementary and junior high level. Students are released early from school each Wednesday so teachers have time to discuss students' needs and individual and district goals.

"I have 25 students and 28 colleagues in the building," said Kennedy School teacher Lorel Lewis. "I really collaborate with everyone in the building."

Lewis said she uses collaboration time to work with other teachers to meet directives and make herself a better teacher for students, parents and other teachers.

"Remember, it takes time to produce a quality product," she said.

Southwest Junior High School teacher Kelly Barker agreed.

"There's a frustrated lawyer in me asking, 'Have we made our case, have we made our case?'" Barker said. "As a teacher, I know we have. As parent, I'm not sure we have."

Barker said that without collaboration time, "we were good teachers. With collaboration time, we're great teachers."

But not everyone was buying what the district was selling during the two-hour forum. About a dozen parents attended the meeting and expressed anger at having to listen to positive aspects of early release for 90 minutes before breaking into small groups where they could express their opinions.

"You won't get me to say one good thing about it," Chris Stevenson said.

Stevenson said she is angry at the lack of parental involvement in the decision to implement collaboration time as a result of teacher contract negotiations last year. Part of the frustration is the scheduling problem the program presents.

"I'm paying you guys to teach my kids," she said. "I'm constantly picking up my child, then taking off work to drive him back for practice. I'm run ragged."

Another parent, Bob Shelton, agreed.

"We weren't told all sides of the story tonight," he said. "We didn't hear from teachers who didn't support this."

Shelton said he wanted to see evidence that early release benefits students.

"I want to see evidence," he said. "I want to see outcomes."

Lois Orth-Lopes, past president for the Lawrence Education Assn., said it is impossible to find concrete evidence in a program that has only been in place for one year.

"In the schools that had it previously, their test scores went up," she said.

Five elementary schools -- New York, Centennial, Cordley, Riverside and Sunset Hills -- have had early release programs for more than five years.

Collaboration time is still on the agenda for the current teacher contract negotiations and could remain intact or emerge in a different form, said LEA President Wayne Kruse.

Teacher contract negotiations are 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the District Service Center, 3705 Clinton Pkwy.

-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is jwatson@ljworld.com.

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