High school students will see change in 2016-17
By Bert Lehman
The Clintonville School Board officially adopted a block schedule format for Clintonville High School, starting with the 2016-17 school year.
The block schedule proposal was approved by a vote of 5-1 at the school board meeting on Monday, Jan. 25. School board President Ben Huber voted no. Board member Jim Dins was excused from the meeting.
The proposal was first presented to the school board at its meeting on Jan. 11. At that meeting, Clintonville High School Principal Lance Bagstad presented the proposed schedule as a “Day 1, Day 2” block schedule. It included four periods per day, with each scheduled class being around 85 minutes. Classes would continue to meet the entire year, but every other day instead of every day.
It was unclear at that meeting whether school administration would implement the change on its own or ask the school board for approval.
Approval of the block schedule proposal was on the agenda for the Jan. 25 meeting.
During the discussion board member Tom Neely asked if the move was being made too soon and too fast for the students.
Bagstad said he didn’t think the administration was moving too fast. He added that the block schedule information had been out since the last board meeting and he hadn’t heard any negative comments about the proposed schedule.
Huber asked how physical education would be included in the block schedule.
Bagstad said physical education classes would meet every other day for one semester.
He added that if a study hall isn’t built into the block schedule, students could potentially have the opportunity to take more classes with this schedule format.
Huber presented to the board and administration several cons that he found will researching block schedules.
He said the attention span of students is short and if too much information is “crammed” into one session they can get burned out.
He said the proposed block schedule would amount to about a 10 percent reduction in class time for students. He said frequency of exposure to information is important. Under the block schedule the frequency would be less.
Huber said absences are magnified in a block schedule.
“You can lose up to half of your week’s scheduled time with your instructor for a one day illness,” Huber said. “And teacher absences become more impactful.”
Huber said there are no large scientific studies that show a block schedule improves student performance.
A block schedule would require teachers to teach differently, Huber said, which would require a learning curve.
“For me, there certainly is no strong argument to go this way,” Huber said.
“The change in teacher habit certainly wasn’t something we thought about lightly,” Bagstad said.
He added that a process has already been started to help prepare teachers for this change.
Bagstad addressed the absence issue.
He said right now, if a student misses a day of school, they miss all eight classes in the day. Under the block schedule, Bagstad said if a student misses a day, they miss four classes, but have the next day to obtain the information missed, and be ready for the next class when it meets.
The reduction in class time was also addressed by Bagstad. He said once you factor in the minutes at the beginning of each class settling students down, and the minutes at the end of class, under the current schedule, the reduction of actual instructional time is more even.
Board member Judy Magee said she was confident the high school teachers can adapt to the change.
“We have a lot of young staff in here that I feel are with the program and will see this thing through, and our kids will succeed,” Magee said.
Bagstad said the change is a shift from seeing how “wide” teachers can teach to doing a better job of teaching “deeper.”
“I think when we start to teach deeper we have meaningful learning that sticks with kids,” Bagstad said. “… We’ve broadened everything so wide that I think we’ve lost sight of the deeper learning that really, really has meaning.”
Prior to the board voting, Clintonville Superintendent Tom O’Toole said no matter what type of schedule is used, the success of it will be determined by teachers. Students who have good teachers will have higher test scores.
“We have to do what we can to make staff members feel appreciated and feel comfortable,” O’Toole said. “We have more than three-quarters who are interested in doing this.”
The board approved Colleen Schertz from her Longfellow Para I (29 hours per week) position to a high school Para I (37.5 hours per week) position, effective Jan. 18.
The board approved Matt Edwards from his high school custodian position to a district-wide custodian I position, effective Jan. 25.
The board approved an increase in hours for Carey Meyer, middle school Para I, from 29 hours per week to 35 hours per week, effective Jan. 25.
The board approved hiring Sarah Olesen and Julie Anvelink to Longfellow Para I positions (29 hours per week). Olesen’s hire was effective Jan. 11, while Anvelink’s was effective Jan. 18.
The board approved the hire of Lindsay Davis to varsity volleyball coach, effective immediately.
The board approved renewing the contracts for the 2016-17 school year for Karleen Brei, Clara Kopplinger, Pam Gray-Verhulst and Steve Reinke.
O’Toole told the board that the ERVING governing board requested Clintonville School District pay a partial fee for this year.
The Clintonville School District withdrew from the ERVING network in the fall.
“We feel administratively it’s been a good decision for us to have left the network, and we feel we’re offering our students as much as we were before,” O’Toole said. “We now have more money to do it with, and maybe we should have done it sooner.”
O’Toole said it was up to the board whether it wanted to pay the partial fee.
Huber suggested the item be tabled until the next meeting so the board could discuss it in closed session. He said if the board voted to decline paying the partial fee, the district may be subject of a lawsuit.
“I think we have to discuss those ramifications in private before we take that action,” Huber said.
Board member Dirk Weber said he was in favor of paying the partial fee.
“I think we pulled the rug out from under them a little quick,” Weber said. “I don’t think the $3,000 is exorbitant.”
Schultz said he wasn’t completely in favor of paying the partial fee, but by doing so the school district would be showing goodwill.
“I think it’s only wise [to pay it],” Schultz said.
The board unanimously approved paying the partial fee.