Jan 28, 2016

DC Public Schools Imposes Longer School Year in Some Schools Without Stakeholders' Input

By: Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

Statements or expressions of opinions herein 'do not' represent the views or official positions of DCPS, AFT, Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) or its members. Views are my own. 

It seems like DCPS is forging ahead with the extension of the school year for the 2016-17 school year for some of the District’s lowest performing schools. According to inside sources, some Ward 7 and 8 junior high schools will be on the list to be converted to a longer school year including Hart Middle School and Johnson Middle School in SE as well as Kelly Miller Middle School located in NE. Randle Highlands Elementary School in SE has also been confirmed by inside sources.

2/2/16 Update: Other low performing schools (known as (40/40 schools) will likely be affected, however, exact numbers have yet to be confirmed. I anticipate that Chancellor Henderson will likely be making an official announcement sometime soon. 

 It disappoints me that as an education stakeholder, I am learning of the news in this way. I searched the DCPS website to see if there were any updates on the proposed extended school year news. Nary a word. Needless to say, I am not shocked or surprised.

Raymond Education campus became part of a DCPS pilot where the school year was extended beginning with the 2015-16 school year. Teachers who worked at Raymond were given the option to get a placement at other schools if they did not want to work the longer school year at Raymond. The  Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) filed a grievance regarding the unilateral extension of Raymond’s school year without bargaining with WTU as sole and exclusive bargaining representative for teachers.

Extending the school day and school year have been high on Chancellor Henderson’s list of top priorities for some time now. Over the last couple of years, some of the lower performing elementary schools have extended the school day by an hour.

There has been widespread disagreement over  union contract language on how extending the school day and year can be accomplished. DCPS and WTU do not agree  and have argued whether the non traditional scheduling clause in the WTU contract allows elected teachers (members of a school advisory committee) to vote on a proposal to extend the school day with a 66 2/3 % majority vote. On the other hand, WTU argues that it is the sole bargaining representative for all matters related to pay, wages, benefits, hours of employment and working conditions for teachers. It remains to be seen how this matter will be resolved through the grievance and arbitration process.

Obviously, there are pros and cons to the debate on whether public schools should extend the school day/school year. Even President Obama and former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have weighed in on what’s good for other peoples’ kids. – especially America’s poorest.

The point that must be made is that our public school system is set up to serve the public. Not just the administrators, not just the students, not just the parents and community, not just the teachers and staff, not just the politicians and unions but all of the public. All of us benefit from a great public school system where all of the education stakeholders get a say in what happens in our schools.

Taking the approach to unilaterally impose a longer school year and school day in this top-down management style is no way for DCPS to run a school district and retain good teachers/staff and families. Remember the exodus of families/students under the Michelle Rhee administration when parents were disengaged in the process to close schools and modify elementary and middle schools into a K-8 model?

Haven’t they (DCPS) learned from past mistakes this is no way to run our schools? Many stakeholders I know are asking questions whether these decisions can be unilaterally imposed by DCPS ? Was the WTU and other unions notified prior to these decisions being made? What are the criteria for extending the school day/ school year? Will teachers and school staff be guaranteed another position like the teachers at the pilot school (Raymond EC)?  Will teachers be subject to finding their own mutual consent placement as outlined in the union contract? Has DCPS considered that the decision to lengthen the school year could contribute to higher teacher turn over?  Do education stakeholders get a say? When will the public be notified of these changes? Will there be hearings held on the changes made to the school year? What is the source of funding for lengthening the school year?

One thing I think many of us can agree on, mayoral control of public education has not been the "cure all" for our schools. Certainly, the education gains promised have not been realized. Taking the power away from our elected school board has not been the 'panacea' that some thought it would be.

I would love to hear your comments on the manner in which the extended school year is being handled by DC public schools. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me on this subject and the extended school day. Teachers, school staff, parents, students and community are welcome to write me c/o thewashingtonteacher@gmail.com

© Candi Peterson, 2016


Patricia Howard-Chittams said...

The question has to be asked about the other entities who provide services to these schools: How will they be compensated for the extra time in the schools? If the individual is a contractor, the contracts cannot be changed on a whim, they will have to be re-negotiated to accommodate the extra time and workload in a school. There is a financial cost to this which has not been addressed. In addition, academically recent studies have proven that longer time in school does not necessarily correlate to better test scores or grades.

Mark Collins said...

Democracy went out the door in 08 when Fenty gained control of the schools and the DC Council abdicated its oversight. Had high hopes for Vince Gray but he too like many politicianss fell short. So, I guess Kaya and crew can do what they want with absolute abandon. Too bad. That's not the DC I grew up in, lived in and worked for. What can be done?

DCPS teacher said...

Your blog has always been a great source of information about what's going on in DCPS. Keep blogging and thanks for always keeping us informed.

Anonymous said...

Please add Randle Highlands to the list of schools told by our principal "to get with it or be excessed out the door." Principal's exact words.

Teachers are scared, but intimidated that they will lose their jobs.

Anonymous said...

HD Cooke ES has also given teachers notification of the extended school year beginning Aug 1, 2016.