Source: Sherman Publications

Board votes to change OHS schedule, end trimesters

by Andrew Moser

March 16, 2011

Oxford High School teachers and students can say good-bye to the current trimester system at the end of this year.

The Oxford Community Schools Board of Education voted 4-3 to approve the changes to the high school schedule during a meeting on Monday, March 7.

Board President Colleen Schultz, Vice-President Bill Keenist, Secretary Carol Mitchell and Treasurer Doug Myer voted yes to change the schedule. Trustees Robert Martin, Trustee Mary Stein and Trustee Kim Shumaker voted no, each of them saying they wanted more concrete information before they could approve the new schedule.

A rotating seven-period day would take the place of the current schedule. This would allow the district to drop trimesters, which do not work with International Baccalaureate, and switch back to semesters.

The district would also save money by proceeding with this new schedule.

According to Superintendent Dr. William Skilling, the district could save at least $260,000 by shifting teachers to different buildings within the district.

“With seven sections and teachers now teaching six sections instead of four sections a week, that allows more opportunities, which may free up a teacher,” Skilling said. “The intent is to take the savings of the full-time teaching and shift it district wide. Our potential for benefit is greater than $260,000 because of the additional revenue we bring in without having to hire additional staff.”

Myer noted the potential savings came in when the district “didn’t have to hire additional staff to cover anything.”

“Our savings are district wide, not just at the high school,” Myer said.

Keenist said his initial concern was about finances.

“I didn’t want it to be financial; I wanted to do what was best for the kids,” he said. “I believe it is, but I also understand that finances does affect the education, so I see the benefit there.”

Skilling added they also had enough money in the upcoming budget to offset the cost of buying additional books and online resources, if needed.

Shumaker still wanted to see an estimated number.

“One of my big things is that I have not seen any financial information. I understand we can save money by shifting teachers and we have books covered, but books are still an expense and online is still an expense and if you switch buildings, it is not really coming back to you,” she said.

“You are still expending it, and for me, that is a big piece that is still missing,” she added.

Stein agreed.

“In order for us to make an informed decision as a board, then we really need to know what it means in terms of finances,” Stein said.

She also expressed concerns about how long it would take to implement the new schedule, saying there would be too many changes in a short amount of time.

The proposal was to implement the rotating seven day period beginning with the 2011-2012 school year and add the May term during the 2012-2013 school year.

The May term would allow students to take five speciality classes designed to either enhance their experience with a particular subject or allow for credit recovery.

Schultz said she was in favor of letting the teachers decide how they wanted the schedule to be implemented. She added after meeting with teachers individually, she was under the impression they wanted to go with both changes next year.

Stein was concerned that teachers would have enough time to write new curriculum for the May term if is was implemented in the 2011-2012 school year.

“Almost every single teacher said to me it’s a four week class and they could write it in their sleep,” Schultz said.

Assistant Principal Kurt Nuss, who helped create the new schedule along with Assistant Principal Todd Dunckley, said most teachers wanted to make just one change.

“For most of our teachers, creating that May term is writing a course, but it is only 20 lessons,” he said. “They could write (the course) based on students interests and (what) they struggle in.”

Myer noted the teachers he met with also endorsed the new schedule.

However, both Martin and Stein told the board they heard during their conversations that teachers felt like the schedule was being rushed and it was a done deal before the board even decided.

Stein noted that some teachers felt like they just heard about the new schedule.

Dunckley noted that opportunities arose for teachers to be on the lead committee for the new schedule or to travel to help with research, but not many teachers availed themselves of the opportunities.

“I know they know a lot of research was done up front...I believe there was trust at that point that things would come back to them and it came back to them,” Dunckley said.

Keenist said he felt comfortable voting in favor of the new schedule after he found out teacher union president Jim Gibbons endorsed the new schedule.

Martin made a motion earlier in the meeting to hold off on voting until the board received all the information on the new schedule, but it failed by a 4-3 decision.