The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 25, 2008

News

CCHS plans longer school day

Classes in fall to run 7:25 a.m. to 2:08 p.m.

The Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) voted Tuesday night to increase the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) day to bring the school into compliance with the Department of Education's (DOE) minimum of 990 hours a year of student learning time. By starting the school day ten minutes earlier and releasing students three minutes later, by eliminating homeroom and cutting time between classes from five to four minutes, students will have 996 hours of learning time in the school year.

The Time and Learning Committee has been meeting for months to determine a reasonable way to add learning time to reach the minimum requirement. The committee is made up of Principal Peter Badalament, Assistant Principal Alan Weinstein, teachers from the math, science, history, English, foreign language and health and fitness departments, along with two students. A number of this committee came to the RSC meeting.

Currently, the high school day starts at 7:35 a.m. and ends at 2:05 p.m. There are seven periods a day, and each class meets four times a week. Time at lunch, in homeroom and "passing time," the time spent to get from class to class, is not counted toward meeting the minimum learning time requirement. When these minutes and a half-day at Thanksgiving are subtracted, CCHS students only experience 932 hours of time on learning. This number is accurate for students taking seven out of eight periods.

Time and Learning Committee member and science teacher Cricket McCaffrey-Clark spoke of the concerns and the limiting factors confronting the committee which included the curriculum, the school building itself, the cost of altering the bus schedule and the pedagogical concerns of starting high school at an even earlier time in the morning.

Badalament said the committee had reviewed at least 15 other school schedules to see if there was a better one to serve their needs. Schedules with eight periods a day shortened each class and added more passing time. "Preserving curriculum is very important," said McCaffrey-Clark. "We looked at lots of seven-block schedules."

McCaffrey-Clark outlined why a 45-minute lunch, which seems long, was so vital. "Lunch gives time for students and teachers to meet. It's an important piece of our culture." Time and Learning Committee member and student Alina Meltaus agreed. "A 45-minute lunch gives us time to decompress." She said there was time for meetings, kids see teachers for extra help, do homework and make up tests. McCaffrey-Clark added, "These lunches are invaluable." She said that she never had time for lunch during a 25-minute lunch period. With this lunch period, she has time for lunch a few times a week and can eat with colleagues and students.

The facility limits options also, due to the lack of free classrooms, classrooms with science labs and the size of the cafeteria.

Minute dropped between classes

One way to add to time would be to shorten the passing time. Currently, the passing time is five minutes between classes. Last year, the school ran an experiment of setting the passing time to four minutes, but both students and faculty had trouble getting to their next classes. But committee member and health and fitness teacher Andrea Gilles said students and faculty alike would have to get ready for the four-minute passing time. "We'll need some preparation and some dialogue." After much debate, the committee recommended the four-minute passing time, so school could start at 7:25 a.m. rather than a five-minute passing time which would cause school to start at 7:19 a.m. Students and faculty felt every minute school could be started later was worthwhile.

Research indicates that high schools should be starting later not earlier, because teenage brains work better later in the morning. Because the CCHS buses are also used for Concord's middle and elementary schools, it was determined that the high school day could be moved by no more than three minutes without disturbing the bus schedules for the other schools. It was estimated that it would cost $1.25 million if the high school were to add additional buses and bus drivers to accommodate a later day, pushing all the extra time to the end of the day. This seemed too costly.

McCaffrey-Clark said that currently, some METCO students are getting on buses in Boston at 6:04 a.m. and some Carlisle students are getting on buses at 6:30 a.m., which is in the dark at this time of year. A number of the RSC members voiced their concerns of getting these kids on to buses even earlier to meet the new starting time.

Will be reviewed

This is considered a short-term solution to meet the state requirements, but the RSC plans to look at how the time adjustments work out. Another school in the CCHS sports league starts at 7:50 a.m. and ends at 2:50 p.m. It was suggested that a long-term solution might involve the Concord schools' and their bus schedules.

RSC member Jerry Wedge pointed out that most Tuesdays are early release days in Concord and buses would not have the same time constraints on those days. He asked the Time and Learning Committee to see whether the high school could be extended on those Tuesdays to alleviate the need to start high school earlier. But for now, high school students will be starting ten minutes earlier come September.

RSC starts search for new CCHS Superintendent

To the Editor:

The Concord Public and Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committees recently announced Dr. Brenda Finn's intentions to retire as Superintendent of Schools at the end of August 2008. We would like to take this opportunity to inform the citizens of Concord and Carlisle of our recruiting plans to fill this critical position within our community.

Dr. Finn's decision to retire arrived late in the recruiting cycle generally utilized by school districts. Communities currently undertaking Superintendent searches began their recruiting process back in the fall. As such we are starting this process late in the year. Given this timing crunch, we have developed a plan that will ensure continuity of the position by first searching within our own system for qualified candidates, and if unsuccessful seeking an interim candidate to begin leading our schools in the fall. At that time we will put in place a full-fledged external search that would commence this summer with the objective of having a permanent Superintendent in place by July 2009.

The School Committees expect to review and approve an updated job description for the Superintendent and the proposed search timelines at our meeting on January 22. We expect to post the open position internally soon thereafter, requesting that qualified individuals submit applications by March 17.

In early February, working with representatives from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), we will hold focus groups with stakeholders soliciting input on the criteria to be utilized in identifying qualified candidates. These groups will include but are not limited to: faculty and administrators from each of our schools and the central office, town government officials and administrators from Concord and Carlisle, parents, parent association members, PTG presidents, citizens at large and finally members of our own committee. We believe that the information developed from these meetings is critical in the process of identifying candidates with the qualities that meet our community's standards.

In mid-March, utilizing the criteria compiled from the focus groups and the approved job description, the School Committees will interview any potential internal candidates for the position. If an internal candidate moves forward, we will, subject to successful reference checks and contract negotiations, offer the individual the position to begin in September 2008. In the event that no internal candidate moves forward, we will begin working with MASC to identify and interview qualified individuals for the postion of Interim Superintendent for the 08/09 school year. At that time we will undertake a complete external search to fill the position for the long-term.

We believe that as the Superintendent of Schools is the educational leader of our community, hiring a highly qualified individual is one of the most important responsibilities of a school committee. We will undertake this responsibility in a well planned and open manner. We urge any member of the community to contact school committee members with any thoughts that they may have as we proceed.


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