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High school delayed opening proposal moves forward

June 03, 2009
A public forum was held last week for further discussion of Gilford High School's plans for delayed entry Wednesdays, with much of the same information previously talked about at School Board meetings being reiterated to concerned parents.

"We want to improve the structural level of the high school," Principal Ken Wiswell said. "We need more collaboration, more time for teachers to work together."

The delayed opening proposal, waiting for the final go ahead, will shave off 16 minutes from each block of class time every Wednesday, starting with homeroom at 8:54 a.m. Each block will be 54 minutes long instead of the usual 70 minutes. The high school will continue to open at 6:30 a.m. with staff on hand if a student needs to be dropped off earlier.

Wiswell explained that "team time" will be used to review examples of student work and make sure each teacher and department uses consistent grading standards, academic expectations, and assignments. There will be an agreement on each assessment, he said, and standardized assessments will then be reviewed to plan each course accordingly.

Superintendent Paul DeMinico insisted that teachers need more time to collaborate and set higher expectations for their students.

"We cannot create collaboration at a faculty meeting once a month for an hour and a half," he said.

DeMinico predicted that this proposal, if the School Board passes it, will lead Gilford education in a positive direction, though he admitted that it will not be an overnight improvement. Right now, he views this as a pilot program that may eventually require more collaboration time from teachers.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges self-study handouts reiterated that taking time to develop common tests, projects, assignments, and assessments should pay off. Another handout at the meeting stated that U.S. teachers spend 80 percent of their time with students, while the highest achieving countries spend 60-65 percent of their time with students and the rest of their time planning.

"If the equity of the school improves, the engagement of students improves. This should result in higher achievement. Kids should get into their first choice college," Wiswell told parents.

Despite the information provided, parents still had some concerns. Some wondered how their children would spend that extra time each Wednesday morning. Wiswell assured parents that this extra time each week would not be an intended invitation for students to be lazy.

"This time is not to be confused with more time to sleep," said Wiswell.

On the other hand, he said that more sleep could be an unintentional perk because it would help each student's physical development.

Others wanted to know what the extra cost of buses on Wednesdays would be, considering there would be three more buses. The cost is usually $100 per bus per day, said DeMinico, but the bus company agreed to cut it down to $50 per bus per day.

One parent asked in what capacity they would see their children's education and learning ability improve.

"The answer of progress is in the achievement of students," said DeMinico, adding that progress can be seen in assessments such as test scores. "The end result: our kids achieving."

The board intends to make a final decision on this issue at its June 15 meeting. A team meeting will be held on June 25 to set goals and discuss a five-year plan the Gilford School District is currently working toward. The leadership team also meets every Monday to assess their progress in meeting these goals.

"Gilford High School is seeing new direction, and the direction is solid. We have to get better at what we do," said DeMinico.

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