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Teacher training

Earth science teacher Megan Greenwood, second row left, listens during the weekly department meeting in October 2018 at Twin Falls High School in Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS – It’s official: Students will get out of school an hour early on Mondays next school year to give teachers time to collaborate.

The Twin Falls school board voted May 13 to approve the early release proposal. Trustee Paul McClintock was absent from the meeting.

For “Collaboration Monday,” teachers will use the time to work together on how to improve classroom instruction. It would be an uninterrupted time for teachers to plan, collaborate and for professional development.

Teachers will be asked to show evidence of what they were doing during their collaboration meetings, Collaboration Monday committee member Tana Schroeder told the school board, and the time will be respected. “It’s kind of a sacred time for them.”

Schroeder said she feels confident the time will be used as intended for collaboration.

School trustees heard an initial presentation in April about the early release proposal, but didn’t take action. The Twin Falls School District sent emails to parents and employees last month with information about the proposal and parents also received a printed letter.

On Collaboration Monday, parents will pick up their children from school and school buses will run at the earlier time. No after-school activities or programs will start until teacher collaboration time has ended.

Morning and afternoon kindergarten classes will be extended by five minutes per day Tuesdays through Fridays. The length of the school day for other elementary school grade levels — as well as at middle and high schools — will remain the same on those days.

Canyon Ridge and Twin Falls high schools already have late start Wednesdays. Now that early release Mondays is approved, they’ll move to that schedule along with other Twin Falls School District campuses.

Associate Superintendent Bill Brulotte — along with a few Collaboration Monday committee members — presented a final recommendation to the school board. As a result of parent feedback, a few changes were made to the initial proposal.

Committee member Annette McFarlin said there were some parent concerns about how collaboration time will be used.

Accountability is very important, McFarlin said. Teachers reporting back to school administration doesn’t have to be a drawn-out process, though, and could just be turning in an exit ticket, she said.

The committee wants to reconvene after a year to look at how things worked and make any improvements.

“I think it’s very important that we look at it, review it and see how successful it is,” McFarlin said.

Dickinson asked if the committee would be open to meeting a few times throughout the year instead. The committee members said they would.

Trustee Mary Barron said she wants to applaud the committee for their work. She was concerned initially about whether teachers’ voices would be heard. Through surveys, they were, she said.

“I’m a big proponent of collaboration,” she said.

Trustee Todd Hubbard — who represented the school board on the Collaboration Monday committee — said he likes the guidelines the committee came up with for how collaboration time will be used.

“We hope the intent of these are followed, but not necessarily to the letter,” he said.

Hubbard asked whether the school board should give approval for Collaboration Monday or wait until the topic goes through teacher contract negotiations.

“I would approve it pending negotiations.” Twin Falls School District Superintendent Brady Dickinson said.

The idea to pursue an early release came about after concerns over a heavy teacher workload arose during 2017 contract negotiations between the Twin Falls Education Association and Twin Falls School District.

A workload committee — including kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, school administrators and parents — was formed to look into the issue.

In 2018, an early release/late start committee was formed. That group came up with its top recommendation: Collaboration Monday.

During their Monday night meeting, trustees also:

  • Voted to purchase land as the site for a possible future elementary school in south Twin Falls.

The school district will buy 13.62 acres of land from two different entities on the west side of Kenyon Road between Pheasant Road and Southwood Avenue for $305,860.

There’s some growth happening in south Twin Falls, so school district administrators felt it was important to look for land in that area, director of operations Ryan Bowman said. New home construction is underway in the area.

The school district will use $182,546 from the sale of land next to South Hills Middle School toward the purchase of new land. The rest of the funds for the purchase will come from a $203,350 payback – which is due by June 1, 2020 — from Sackett Farm Subdivision to the school district for Pillar Falls Elementary School area improvements.

  • Approved a new class: art and science of military leadership.

It’s essentially a junior ROTC program. Teacher Matt Coleman and two members of the Idaho Army National Guard presented to the school board initially in April.

It won’t cost the Twin Falls School District anything to implement the class because the Idaho Army National Guard will fund it.

“I think it’s extremely well planned,” Barron said about the course proposal.

It’s a great additional opportunity for students to look into another career choice, Hubbard said.

  • Awarded a bid for $99,466 to Idaho Materials and Construction for Robert Stuart Middle School’s track and the school district administrative office’s parking lot.

Bids came in lower than the school district’s estimates.

  • Recognized employees of the month from Twin Falls High School and Canyon Ridge High School: Business teacher/coach Mark Schaal and principal’s office secretary/manager Kris Guiles at Twin Falls High, and teacher Steve Davis and head custodian Jordan Eldredge at Canyon Ridge High.
  • Heard a proposal to name the new outdoor basketball courts at Robert Stuart Middle School after Jack B. Watts, who was the first principal at Robert Stuart for 25 years and a Twin Falls School District employee for a total of 32 years.

It was an information item, so the topic will come back to the board for action in June.

Watts died recently, shortly before the basketball court project was completed. Watts’ wife was in attendance at the school board meeting, along with Robert Stuart P.E. teacher Katie Kauffman.

  • Approved the emergency school closure that happened Friay at Twin Falls High School due to an online threat, which police later found to be a false report.
  • Heard a 2019-20 preliminary budget presentation.

Finance director Bob Seaman said he’s excited with the results after putting together the preliminary budget. There’s a projected $62.3 million in total revenue for next year’s budget — up from about $59 million this year.

Enrollment growth seems to be slowing down and student numbers now are about the same as a year ago, Dickinson said.

As a result, school district officials are being conservative with budget projections for next year in case there isn’t an enrollment increase and if the school district doesn’t qualify for an emergency levy, Dickinson said.

  • Approved a resolution for an average daily attendance adjustment request.

The state has a process that allows for school districts to adjust attendance based on student absences due to illnesses or weather. School districts receive state funding based on average daily attendance.

As school trustees looked at attendance numbers, Dickinson said: “You can definitely see by that chart when the flu hit in Twin Falls.”

  • Heard a presentation about a special education manual.
  • Heard an introduction of new Twin Falls School District Education Foundation executive director Stephanie Hudson. She fills the job vacated by Linda Watkins, who retired at the end of April.
  • Heard a public comment from a mother who wants her daughter to graduate with her class.

Her daughter struggles with Algebra II and is at risk of not passing the fourth-quarter class, but has earned enough credits in total to graduate from high school.

The board reviewed information and a letter from Dickinson as a result of his meeting with the mother. Trustees decided to put the matter back in Dickinson’s hands for any further action.

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