CARY — If some teachers have their way, the Wake County school system could return to the controversial practice of releasing students early once a week so that educators can use that time for planning and training.
Wake County school administrators reported Tuesday to the school board on the results of a survey of teachers on what the district can do reduce their workload and help them do their job better. One of the “strong themes,” Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore said, was to review options to restore having a consistent, districtwide, professional-learning team meeting for teachers each week.
Acknowledging that there was community reaction to the meetings when the approach was last used, school board Chairwoman Christine Kushner advised caution.
“We have to be very thoughtful when we are discussing that particular issue,” she said.
During the 2009-10 school year, school was dismissed an hour early every Wednesday. Supporters praised the way the dismissals gave teachers the ability to meet regularly in teams. The practice allowed for planning and professional development that backers said would improve education.
But the early dismissals drew complaints from parents about having to pay for additional child care on Wednesdays. Opponents called the days “wacky Wednesdays.”
GOP opposes, discards plan
The four Republican school board candidates who helped form a new board majority in 2009 had campaigned against the weekly early dismissals. They voted to discontinue the practice at the end of the school year.
Schools were directed to find their own way for teachers to meet. Some schools have teachers meet before classes start. Some meet during the school day and others after classes end.
Democrats regained the majority after the 2011 board elections but haven’t restored the early dismissals.
Earlier this school year, the school board directed administrators to reach out to principals and teachers about how the district can help teachers. The feedback from those discussions was presented to the school board on Tuesday.
‘It was very popular’
When the issue of having a districtwide weekly planning time was brought up, several board members talked about how the system used in 2009 was better than the one now in place.
“It was one of the first times in my career where I saw the county gave us time,” said school board member Zora Felton, who retired as a teacher last year. “They gave us time to do something that was valuable, that was in the best interests of students.”
School board member Bill Fletcher said that business research shows that it makes more sense to have employees meet during work hours to avoid fatigue.
School board member Kevin Hill, who had voted against ending the early dismissals, said an advantage of the model used in 2009 was that it allowed all teachers to meet together. He said that’s not possible now at many schools.
“When we were doing Wake Wednesdays, I think it was very popular with the teachers,” added school board member Keith Sutton, who had also voted against ending the early dismissals.