Archive for Monday, August 11, 2008

For Lawrence’s teachers, school’s never completely out for summer

Planning, preparations for classes consume many hours during break

Free State High School English teacher Alice Karakas-Neuman sets up her computer with assistance from Linda Wedge, another teacher at Free State. Teachers across the district have spent much of their summer break preparing their rooms and curricula for the new school year, which begins this week.

Free State High School English teacher Alice Karakas-Neuman sets up her computer with assistance from Linda Wedge, another teacher at Free State. Teachers across the district have spent much of their summer break preparing their rooms and curricula for the new school year, which begins this week.

August 11, 2008


By her count, Lori Greenfield has spent time prepping her fifth-grade classroom two to three times a week since school ended in May.

The Prairie Park School teacher moved classrooms as part of a switch from fourth grade to fifth grade. Just days before students return to school, Greenfield is still waiting for printed materials and dry-erase boards.

"I've spent most of the rest of the summer here and there," she said, reviewing curricula and preparing herself for the school year.

Such is the life of a teacher. For many Lawrence public school teachers, summer break is a misnomer.

Terry Durgan, a fourth-grade teacher at Quail Run School, has been in the classroom since mid-July. Southwest Junior High teachers Kelly Barker and Dani Lotton-Barker dropped in throughout the summer when their children were at day care.

Alice Karakas-Neuman has read "The Crucible" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" this summer, and has spent time updating her curriculum, ordering books and organizing her calendar. Last week, she was getting her English classroom ready for students at Free State High School.

"It takes a good week to get ready," said the third-year teacher, as long strips of colored paper littered the floor.

Teachers say the preparations for the school year take time, more than the one day teachers are allotted this week before students return to the classroom.

Between mapping out lesson plans to maximize each student's learning opportunities and taking care of logistical matters ranging from compiling supplies to organizing classrooms, teachers are prone to spending a good part of the summer laying the foundation for the school year.

It's a process that confounds many local educators.

"I'm sure it frustrates some people," Karakas-Neuman said. "You have to do this. There's no way around it."

The issue of planning time is front and center in the ongoing teacher contract negotiations. Lawrence public schools and the Lawrence Education Association are at an impasse, as negotiations between the two sides stalled in June. A federal mediator is scheduled to sit down with negotiators on Aug. 20.

Elementary school teachers say their current time of 190 minutes a week for planning is inadequate. In comparison, high school teachers get 325 minutes for planning each week.

"As the planning time subcommittee has put together, we do think there is a need for more planning time, and that's what we've been working toward," said Frank Harwood, the district's chief negotiator. "The big issue is making that work."

Summer preparations are not part of the teacher contract, which expired at the end of the last school year.

"Every teacher has different things that they feel they have to have done before school starts," Harwood said. "Each teacher feels a different need to have those things done at school or at home before the school year starts."

Harwood said lengthening the contract to extend into the summer has been proposed, but "that has not been something the teachers' association has been real excited about."

Nor has much thought been given to requiring teachers to work during the summer to shore up lesson plans for the next school year.

Greenfield said she has seen every Prairie Park teacher at the school at some point during the summer.

Still, teachers know this is their duty.

"I'd rather be prepared and ready to go, rather than get paid," Karakas-Neuman said.


softtalker 7 years, 3 months ago

Most people forget that none of us would be where we are today if it weren't for teachers. In my opinion teachers should be the highest paid profession out there. Without knowing how to read or write it would be hard to do much.

davidsmom 7 years, 3 months ago

My father was a teacher. His work kept him at school several hours after school was out for the day, and he brought work home every night and every weekend. He was at school much of the summer preparing, when he wasn't teaching summer classes or taking classes of his own to keep up his CE credits. People who think teachers only work 7 hours a day and 9 months a year just don't have a clue.

alm77 7 years, 3 months ago

Barry, they get a salary and I don't know about Lawrence, but some schools allow you to have your salary divided by 9 months (school's in session) and 12 months. You don't get any extra money, you just get it in varying increments.

Confrontation 7 years, 3 months ago

Teachers know what they're getting themselves into before they enter the profession. Then, they whine about it and try to get more money. Teachers have been planning during the summer for a very long time. If you didn't like the idea of working off the clock, then you should have picked a different career path.

mom_of_three 7 years, 3 months ago

Although i agree with you about teachers, anyone who works for salary, not hourly, often puts in those exact hours.

coolmom 7 years, 3 months ago

i agree davidsmom. my hubby who is on salary with a big computer company puts in 60 hours a week at least not counting answering emails or late night fix this phone calls and most of the teachers i know stomp that into the ground.

volunteer 7 years, 3 months ago

The elementary teachers have reason to be ticked off. Their union or "association" or whatever does not go to bat for them. Their planning time is way below that of secondary teachers and they are not even guaranteed a "duty-free" lunch.Many of the small school districts surrounding Lawrence have managed to work on these issues. The Lawrence elementary teachers need to perform a coup and replace their association leadership with some who will pay heed to their concerns.

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