Friday, October 2, 2009

October 2nd, 2009 - Report of the Electives Committee

The History Behind the Electives Committee -
Last Spring (2009)a group of electives teachers asked to meet with Chriss Golden after registration had been completed. They were alarmed by how the shift to the 6 hour day, in tandem with the increased and more stringent graduation requirements initiated by the State of Michigan, had caused a drop in the number of students registering for elective classes. Elective teachers were losing several sections of their offerings, and some had even been shifted to different schools. Because of the incremental increase of requirements over 2009-2009 and 2009-2010, they anticipated that even fewer students would be able to sign up for electives in the 2010-2011 school year. Chriss asked Daryl Szymanski and me to also attend this meeting as the vice-president and president elect of the WLEA.

The electives people, Daryl, myself, and Cyndi Austin (our uniserve director) met again in July and worked on the survey that was sent to all secondary staff (high school and middle school) of the WLEA. Our intent was to determine the membership's view of the effect of the 6 hour day. I sent the results of that survey to secondary teachers last week.

We also asked Dr. Hamilton to gather registration data for us comparing electives student numbers and teacher FTE from the 2008-2009 school year (a 7 period day schedule) and for this year (2009-2010). The data showed an average drop of over 13% for the combined electives FTE. Physical education classes dropped the most, and Foreign Language showed little, if any change. Other areas that showed a decrease in FTE included Business, Music/Performing Arts, Art, and Industrial Arts.

In discussing this information, the Electives group that was meeting together saw that a return to the 7 hour day would alleviate the registration problems for electives classes, but were mindful that the load of teaching 6 classes out of 7 the previous 2 years had been unpopular and problematic for many teachers, particularly the core teachers. So, the committee decided to ask to meet with Dr. Hamilton to talk about possible solutions.

The October 2nd Committee Report -
Daryl Szymanski, Mary Rashid, David Deluca, and I met with Dr. Hamilton. We briefly went over the survey and the numbers as he had those before our meeting. He knows the issue!

The first suggestion put on the table, was immediately pushed off the table. That being, a return to the 7 hour day, with core teachers teaching 5 out of 7, and electives teaching 6 out of 7. Dr. Hamilton told us that would cost 1 million to 2 million dollars and considering the state budget mess, couldn't be done.

We then talked about the possibility of core teachers teaching academic classes for 5 out of 7 hours, but perhaps there was a sixth hour assignment that would be beneficial to students, and yet not add any preparation to the academic day. We also talked about caps on class sizes, similar to the language previously in the contract that expired with the demise of the 7 hour day last spring. After lots of ideas being floated, the following actions were taken:

1) Dr. Hamilton is sending out a Metro Bureau Search to all districts in this area asking 5 questions regarding their experience with the increasing academic requirements from the state and maintaining student opportunity to take electives.
2) Mary said that Judy knows of a program being done in Grosse Pointe that may give us an idea. Judy, could you send a bit of this information to me and I will contact the EA president in Grosse Pointe.
3) I did not say this at the meeting, yesterday afternoon, Cyndi Austin sent out a questionnaire to all MEA Eastern Zone leaders, asking them questions similar to the inquiries in the Metro Bureau Search.

We also talked about deadlines looming for decision making, as scheduling will need to be set, probably in December. This is of grave concern to me.

How to proceed? I am going to talk with Cyndi regarding some issues, but I believe we need to look at
1) finding an acceptable use for a 6th hour for core teachers that does not require an additional prep
2) is there any other way of accomplishing this AND giving more time for students to take electives.
3) We need to bring high school core teachers into our group SOON and will be pursuing this later today and on Monday.
4) I will need to take this to the Bargaining Committee as well, probably as we add core teachers.