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July 3, 1998     Cape Gazette
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July 3, 1998
 

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10. CAPE GAZ]TTE, Friday, Jdlyr'-'-'Jdyag, 19tJ8 Cape board ......... ................ ...... .... ........ ....... " overturns Block schedu00g decision Administrators tackle problems from switch By Kerry Kester in an unusual move by the Cape Henlopen School District Board of Education, the board voted June 25, to reverse a building-lev- el.decision to have block schedul- ing at Cape Henlopen High School. In a 4-3 vote, the board voted to have the high school reschedute the students in a strip schedule similar to what it has used for the past several years, rather than begin block scheduling in the 1998-99 school year. The issue came under fire after the May board meeting, when board members learned the high Lewes Middle By Kerry Kester Despite strong opposition from a core group of Lewes Middle School teachers, the Cape Hen- Ion School District Board of Education voted to transfer Peg Menear from her position as prin- cipal of Lewes Middle School to a district-level administrative job. Menear is now an administrator for special programs. Marge Peck, formerly an assistant princi- pal at Cape Henlopen High School, is principal at Lewes Mid- dlelSchool. Her job at the high school is expected to be posted the week of July 6. Toachers learned of Menear's potential transfer the day before the June 25 meeting, when the board was expected to vote on ad- ministrative contracts. Approxi- mately 15 teachers rallied to sup- port retaining Menear in her posi- tion, stating another administra- tion change in the building would curtail the development the school is undergoing in its restructuring process. "In the seven years since its re- organization as a middle school, school had, without notifying the board, made a radical change in scheduling students. Block scheduling allows students to take four entire courses in a semester, or eight full courses per year. The strip scheduling system the school previously used allowed students to take seven courses per year. Board member Brent Moore moved to change the schedule back to a hybrid schedule similar to the one that was in place at the high school in the 1998-99 school year. June Turansky seconded the motion; Estie Class and Becki Millman voted in favor of it. Op- posed to making the change were Tony Streett, Barry Porter and Sue Shupar& who as president, exercised her right to cast a vote. Critics of the scheduling change said the decision was made with too little planning and prepara- tion, and the community was ex- cluded from the decision-making process. Advocates of the change argued that the building's staff was well prepared, enough plan- ning would be completed through the summer months and the deci- sion belonged to the high school faculty, as part of the shared deci- sion making process. ',It's really disappointing," said Chris King, a high school teacher who supported block scheduling. "I just feel as though the integrity of our faculty has been compro- mised, because we, in good faith, made the decision. It seems like we're bending for so few people." "I've gotten more response about this issue than any other School: Lewes Middle School has had three principals," said Joe Billger, a veteran teacher. "During the tenure of the most recent, Ms. Peg Menear, we have endured some of the most trying and turbulent edu- cational times in the history of the Cape Henlopen School District." Billger referred to Menear's lead- ership and vision as important to helping the school with its transi- tion to the middle school concept. "A change of this magnitude - what will the students benefit from?" asked teacher Don Schlater. "Peg Menear was in no way con- nected with our action," said teacher Gii Hense after the meet- ing, What appeared to upset the teachers equally as the loss of Me- near was the district's disregard to the Collaborative Approach to Problem Solving (CAPS), a nego- tiating strategy on which the dis- trict and professional educational organizations spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of training hours. When the district introduced the CAPS concept to the Cape Hen- Menear out, Peck in lopen Education Association and Cape Heniopen Support Staff As- sociation several years ago, the primary intent was to ease the of- ten adversarial or tense relation- ship between district officials and board members, and professional staff. Its initial use was in con- tract negotiations. As more mon- ey was spent to train more people, CAPS became the accepted stan- dard of communication and nego- tiation between the professionals. Part of the agreement for all par- ties to accept CAPS was that all will use its strategies to negotiate issues and reach agreements in a nonconfrontational manner. In addition to CAPS, the district also is receiving grant money from the state for the district's agreement to participate in shared decision making, an indirect part of the state's educational reform initiative. "The question is what happened to CAPS?" said Hense. "What happened to shared decision mak- ing?" "We weren't consulted of any changes. Decisions are being made in executive sessions that we know absolutely nothing about," said Dan Coffman, teacher. "They [the board] have not tak- en it away from us. It's never in- cluded us," said Schlater. The board is prohibited by law from discussing matters of person nel. Job evaluations are confiden- tial; school boards have full power to place administrators in the jobs theydeem most appropriate. thing in the past three years," said Moore, who said many parents did not know that they were scheduling for a block system when they assisted their children with course selection. Turansky questioned whether the board should have approved the decision initially, since the board is responsible for making decisions about curriculum. Board excluded The issue of whether to use a block scheduling system at the high school began approximately four years ago, with a presentation to the board. At that time, the board gave Ron Burrows, princi- pal, its blessing to research the is- sue. During the next several years, administrators and staff studied the system; some teachers trained in teaching in block sys- tem. In the 1997 school year, the fac- ulty agreed that if 80 percent of the staff agreed to a change, then the change would be made. Sev- eral more votes were taken; each time it failed. With each vote against the change, Burrows said he assumed the issue was dropped. Some staff members who sup- ported it, however, brought the is- sue to the faculty again, but again there was not an 80 percent vote. The last vote, conducted in the 1997-98 school year, resulted in 67 percent of the staff supporting a shift to block scheduling. In February, administrators began scheduling students for the 1998- 99 school year, using a four-by- four block system. The board was apprised of the decision at the May 28 meeting. Turansky voiced concern at that meeting that the board, which was part of the initial decision to study the issue, was suddenly eliminat- ed from the process. At the June 25 meeting, she said, "Something happened along the way...somewhere I expected them to be coming back. Some kind of jump happened some- where. I missed it." She said the last she knew, prior to the May 28 meeting, the staff had voted block scheduling down, "and all of a sudden it just came from some- where." She said that she is not totally opposed to the change; she simply does not believe the district is well enough prepared to make the change at this time. "There are just so many questions," she said. Some board members also questioned whether the decision should ultimately have been de- cided by the board, because in ef- fect, it is an issue of curriculum. Superintendent Suellen Skeen said that block Scheduling is:not an issue of changing the curricu- lum "Aligning the curriculum is not necessarily changing the cur- riculum," said Skeen. "They are simply...changing the scope and sequence. The whole year [of a course] is going to be offered in one semester. That is not a curriculum change. Ron and the staff did what they were asked to do, and that was make a deci-" sion." "If this is what the high school staff wants, then let them sell the parents and the kids this next year," said Turansky. Problems in reverting During the meeting, Burrows expressed concern that it is too late to effectively make the changes. He asked the board for the resources he will need tomake the scheduling changes that ordi- narily take up to four months to complete. Difficulties, he said, include guidance counselors not working in summer months, creat- ing a new master schedule and en- suring students get the courses they need. Other problems are arising as the change gets underway, he said in a July 1 interview. For exain- ple, he said, there may be a.necd for more textbooks. "We proba- bly don't have enough textbooks ordered, because we were plan- ning on using them twice," said Burrows. However, he said, until the mas- ter schedule is finished, he won't know what the text needs are. If the school ultimately proves to have too few books, he said, his school budget is not sufficient to cover the cost of buying more. "Block scheduling tends to be more material intense than text- book iniense," said Burrows, not- ing that part of the concept is teachers use more hands-on learn- ing strategies with the longer class periods. Teaching materials could also be a problem, he said, be- cause although he expects that most of what the teachers ordered will be usable if the school adopts a block scheduling system in the 1999-00 year, it's conceivable Continued on page.IS? g the Cape Henlopen School District Board of Educa- tio?s:June 25 meeting, Lewes Middle School teachers pro the board transferring their principal, Peg Menear, out of her position at the middle school. Teachers were roused to action after hearing rumors the d before the meeting that Menear would be transferred. MeBeari who is now an a district-level administrator for spe- cial programs, was the building's third principal in the last seven years. Shown are the, Lewes teachers in what has :become the stafPs :'symhblic"sigature of unity -'standing while a spokesmanpresents:oncerns to'he beard. Board votes against rolling over Skeen's contra t The Cape Heniopen School District Board of Edu- cation voted Thursday, June 25, not to roll over Su- perintendent Suellen Skeen's contract, but it unani- mously passed a resolution indicating confidence in her performance. The vote brings the Cape district in line with most other districts in the state that allow a superinten- dent's contract to wind down to one or two years re- maining before renewing it. Skeen's contract is now scheduled to expire June 30, 2001. Her current annual salary is $99,458, plus an annu- al reimbursement benefits package of $3,000, whjci: is included in her: paychecks. -: According to Andy Brandenberger, direct business operations, the additional $3,000 is f.'t'qr travel expenses and other expenses related to the!i;.i that other people put in for reimbursement." He, saiff that if her actual expenses exceeded the $3,000i she would absorb the costs herself. . :, Unlike some superintendents in other distrilci:s' he said, Skeen's contract, does not call for her to. have a district-prbvidd vehicle thaishe c6iJid use for both personal :and professional activitieS.