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Chatham Teacher Advisory Committee meeting notes

Posted Thursday, February 15, 2007

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Pittsboro, NC - The Teacher Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting convened at North Chatham Elementary School on January 17, 2007, in the media center. Dr. Ann Hart called the meeting to order at 3:35 p.m.

Minutes from the TAC Meeting at North Chatham Elementary School, 01/17/07

In attendance: Dr. Ann Hart, Superintendent
Cheryl Baldwin, Administrative Assistant for Federal Programs
Beverly Rhodes, TOY from Bennett
Juanita Bowman, TOY from Bonlee
Diane Robinson, TOY from Chatham Middle
Ann Jestes, TOY from Horton
Matt Fry, TOY from Jordan-Matthews
Melinda Brannen, TOY from JS Waters
Justin Sudol from Moncure
Mary Catherine McCauley, TOY from North Chatham
Skip Thibault, TOY from Northwood
Terri Fannin, TOY from Perry Harrison
Nancy Hively, TOY from Pittsboro Elementary
Adam Jordan, for Trudy Walters, TOY from SAGE
Kim Johnson, TOY from Silk Hope
Janet Brady, TOY from Siler City Elementary
Absent with Notice: Laurie Paige, TOY from Chatham Central

The Teacher Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting convened at North Chatham Elementary
School on January 17, 2007, in the media center. Dr. Ann Hart called the meeting to order at
3:35 p.m.

Question/Comment #1: North Chatham requested that the Calendar Committee look into the
half student/half staff development day model used by Chapel Hill Schools and other
districts. In this model students are dismissed after lunch, and faculty and staff use the other
half-day for staff development activities once per nine weeks.

Dr. Hart said that she would redirect this suggestion to the Calendar Committee for consideration. North Chatham teachers requested that it be noted that time spent working in the classroom on a workday is important and should not be downplayed.

Question/Comment #2: Teachers reported that e-mails, calls or voice mails to the county
office are not always returned, recognized or resolved in a timely manner.

Dr. Hart instructed the group to send specific incidences so she can follow up on these concerns.

Question/Comment #3: Pittsboro Elementary teachers expressed interest in the scheduling of the “three weekend-two full weeks” Winter Break as has been done in the past.

Again, Dr. Hart will refer this request to the Calendar Committee. She reminded the group that the State mandated that school systems schedule no student days before August 25th and none after June 10th of each school year. This creates challenges for those in charge of building school calendars. In addition, Dr. Hart reminded the committee that the N.C. State Employees Credit Union can arrange to have Chatham County Schools employees’ salaries distributed over twelve months.

Question/Comment #4: Nancy Hively reported that many teachers at Pittsboro Elementary
support the scheduling of a workday for the first day back after a holiday.

Dr. Hart stated that the suggestion should be forwarded to the Calendar Committee.

Question/Comment #5: Skip Tibault discussed the hardship that high school teachers and
staff experience due to the current mandatory staff development activities scheduled at the
end of first semester. He stated that the high schools have a short turn around time in which
to administer exams and EOC tests, gather and average grades, and report student absences in
an accurate and timely manner at end of first and second semesters.

Question/Comment #6A: Terri Fannin reported that teachers at Perry Harrison want to know who makes the decisions regarding what staff development activities are presented and how scheduling of these activities is determined.

Dr. Hart reported that Dr. Robin McCoy, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, oversees the planning and implementation of staff development activities in consultation with other county office staff members. She reported that this year’s staff development activities were planned in the summer with input from surveys that were administered last year.

The C & I division uses mandatory staff development days to provide staff development in
areas that are relevant to district wide initiatives or state mandated areas. These include such
topics as Writers Workshop, hands-on science kits, training in using the new textbook
adoption, Algebra I instruction, AVID, new IDEA requirements, etc.

It is important for all staff to receive training in their respective area in order to make sure all students have access to instruction from teachers with up to date training/knowledge/skills and that all staff members in a school have received the same training. However, in areas where there are no district-wide initiatives or mandates from DPI requiring specific staff development, we ask
those teachers for suggestions of topics to provide that which would benefit and interest
them. For example, the cultural arts, foreign language, and PE teachers gave us suggestions
of things they would like to have provided on January 19th and central office staff arranged
the staff development. In the summer, we will be providing optional staff development in a
variety of areas. These topics are chosen based on feedback from teachers, principals, and
central office staff. The topics and dates will be published in the next six to eight weeks.

Question/Comment #6B: Can teachers meeting certain standards, such as tenure with fifteen
years of experience or National Board Certification or some other criteria, be given the
option of not attending "mandatory" staff development?

Ongoing staff development is essential no matter where you are in your professional career. The C & I division strives to make sure that the staff development is relevant, timely, and interesting.

Question/Comment #7: A North Chatham teacher requested accurate information on the
proposed opening date for the new middle school.

Dr. Hart stated that the proposed 2008 opening date of the new middle school has been delayed, and the likely opening date for the new middle school will be fall of 2009. She reported that the design team met through August, and the committee’s preliminary work has been completed. However, the process stopped due to the fact that no funding is available at the present time, and the architects’ work cannot be completed until funding from the county commissioners resumes. Dr. Hart stated that she has sent out several e-mails regarding the delayed opening date, but she will send additional communications in the future as information is known. She stated her disappointment regarding the delay of the opening of new middle school.

Question/Comment #8: A North Chatham teacher stated that the Calendar Committee
members need information ahead of time in order to make the best decisions regarding the
2007-08 school calendar.

Dr. Hart stated that Calendar Committee members receive information when they meet that covers the parameters of what the law requires. She further stated it is difficult to send information in advance to the committee. Committee members will divide into groups and will look at the existing calendar and begin work on calendar possibilities when they convene.

Question/Comment #9: A North Chatham teacher wanted to know if Chatham County
Schools can avoid scheduling parent-teacher conferences on Mondays.

Dr. Hart said that parent conference days had to be scheduled around the limited number of available workdays this year. She said that scheduling a workday at the end of the six-week grading period as well as one at the end of the nine-week grading period had been discussed, and one of them could be for conferences. Again, the limited number of available workdays contributes to the difficulty in scheduling conferences.

Question/Comment #10: A request was made for updated technology countywide to allow
for testing practice programs such as Study Island, Accelerated Reader, Test Magic, and
others.

Dr. Hart advised TAC members that this is done at the school level. Suggestions for piloting programs should be sent to Peggy Douglas. Requests for additional computers and other hardware should be made in the same manner.

Question/Comment #11: Another request was made for discontinuing mandatory staff
development and training at the end of nine weeks or at the end of the semester, although the
need for ongoing and appropriate training was recognized.

Question/Comment #12: A North Chatham teacher inquired about the possibility of
conducting more staff development opportunities at the local schools and about the
possibility of teachers having more choice in what they will or will not participate in.

Dr. Hart stated that while we do have in-house staff development and training at each school, the
mandatory district-wide staff development locations are rotated around the county. Siler City
Elementary and Northwood High School hosted many sessions on January 19, 2007, and
represented both ends of the county. She said that the central office staff would continue to
look at ways to offer a variety of choices for staff development and training.

Question/Comment #13: A Horton teacher inquired if Tuesday is a designated school
meeting day across the county for faculty meetings, SIT, grade level meetings, etc.

Dr. Hart responded that Chatham County Schools made the decision long ago to have Tuesdays be the designated school/faculty meeting day. This practice helps central office staff in scheduling meetings and activities that do not interfere with school level functions.

This teacher further inquired as to why sporting events are frequently scheduled on Tuesdays,
resulting in coaches, cheerleading sponsors, and teachers on duty missing meetings due to
travel to away games or organizing for home games.

Dr. Hart responded that the North Carolina High School Athletic Association determines dates for high school sporting events as high schools are in conferences, and many high school winter sporting events fall on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. She said that middle school athletic events have been scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays immediately after school in Chatham County for many years. She stated that the current district school/faculty meeting day could be changed to a day other than Tuesday if schools are interested in exploring that possibility. It was the consensus of the group that this is a problem in December, January and February, primarily.

A Horton teacher voiced concerns regarding the scheduling of mandatory meetings on
election days due to the lengthy nature of after school meetings that can interfere with
teachers getting to the polls in a timely manner.

Dr. Hart responded that individual schools make decisions regarding how many faculty/grade level meetings are scheduled each month. She stated that problems of this nature should be resolved at the school level since the central office does not determine the length or numbers of after school meetings.

Matt Fry said that Jordan-Matthews conducts alternate Wednesday morning review sessions
for coaches and others who miss regularly scheduled faculty meetings due to coaching and
other assignments.

Dr. Hart commented that scheduling a next day alternate meeting is a good idea for faculty members who miss the regularly scheduled meeting. She restated that the reason behind having a countywide meeting day is to ensure that the central office staff does not schedule meetings and activities that intrude on meetings that need to happen in the schools. She reminded the group that when a principal calls a mandatory meeting, it is the principal’s decision and not the decision of the central office.

Question/Comment #14A: Why isn’t there a countywide policy for the acquisition of a
substitute when a teacher is ill?

Dr. Hart stated that she believes that some things should not be district mandated. Schools handle the acquisition of subs differently, and Chatham County Schools does not have an automated system in place. She said that some schools have the secretary secure substitutes, while other schools require that teachers secure the substitutes from the available substitute pool.

Question/Comment #14B: Would it be possible for the county to investigate the use of an
automated system to handle the reporting of an absence and the location of the substitute as
in Wake County?

Dr. Hart said that she feels that district-wide automated systems are not necessarily the best way to handle the securing of substitutes. She recognized that it could be difficult to secure substitutes, especially if you are sick.

Question/Comment #14C: The calling and location of a substitute when one is sick and one
just wishes to stay in bed is a lot to ask. I see a huge difference between obtaining our own sub when it is a personal day or an in-service where advance notice is used but when one wakes up sick with the flu and has to spend time calling as many as five different substitutes to locate one is hard to tolerate. An automated system where one could call twenty-four hours a day seems reasonable to me.

Dr. Hart polled the TAC members to see how many get their own subs, how many have
school personnel secure the subs, and who, if anyone, has an automated system in place.
Beverly Rhodes reported that at Bennett she calls into an automated system that keeps calling
subs on the list until someone is available.

Skip Tibault reported that Northwood is looking into an automated system at the present time. All others schools are about equally split on the issue of school secretaries and/or administration securing the subs or teachers having to secure their own subs.

Dr. Hart restated that she believes that principals and schools should make decisions on lining up substitutes based on what works best for each individual school and not by a district mandate. She said that the central office is trying to bolster the substitute list as there are never enough subs on certain days, and she recognizes that securing substitutes can be quite challenging.

Question/Comment #15: Pittsboro Elementary referenced a question raised in a previous
TAC meeting regarding an increase in the teacher supplement.

Dr. Hart reminded the group that all schools are in conversation at the present time regarding expansion budget requests, capital outlay requests, and operating expense requests with faculty councils or school improvement teams. She said that five expansion budget items would go forward from each school to the central office level for consideration in the upcoming 2007-08 budget for the school system. The capital outlay requests include three different categories with five items under each one. Capital requests include items such as building needs, more desks, more computers, or walkway covers.

Dr. Hart stated that supplement increases would fall under expansion requests. She
commented that it is more powerful when the Chatham County Board of Education requests
a supplement increase from the Chatham County Board of Commissioners when the majority
or all schools have included a supplement increase as one of their highest priority budget
items. She further stated that Chatham County Schools is in a competitive market and that
many surrounding counties offer higher supplements than we do at the present time. Dr. Hart
reminded the group that all budget requests are due by January 31, 2007.

Question/Comment #16: Some teachers wondered why paychecks were issued on November
21st and not on November 30th as usual.

Dr. Hart responded that paychecks were issued before Thanksgiving in the hope that it would be helpful to employees if they had money for shopping and could take advantage of sales that take place immediately following Thanksgiving.

Question/Comment #17: Someone noted that teachers reported that supplements paid in
separate checks in December resulted in the money being taxed at a much higher rate than
the supplement that was paid in May 2006.

Dr. Hart stated that supplements and salary checks were paid separately but the tax rate was based on the combined amount of regular salary and supplement. She promised to look at it again to see what makes a positive difference in the net pay.

Question/Comment #18A: Skip Tibault reported that Northwood teachers who teach classes
with End of Course (EOC) exams have expressed concerns regarding the large class sizes of
EOC classes at Northwood. He said that large numbers in a classroom disrupt small group
activities and place additional pressure on teachers and students to perform well on EOC
exams. He asked Dr. Hart if anything could be done to limit class size.

Dr. Hart stated that schools turn in requests for additional positions, as is appropriate, when
they feel the need is demonstrated. Once she approves additional positions, it is up to the
schools to determine how those positions will be utilized. She said that high school
scheduling could be particularly challenging due to the variety of courses offered and the
normal fluctuations in class sizes accordingly. She stated that schools should continue to
make requests for additional staff when it is appropriate, and that principals should
continually look for ways to fine tune schedules to maximize student/teacher ratios. Some
CTE courses limit the number of students who can be in those courses, which further
complicates scheduling.

Dr. Hart stated that high schools are presently looking at how the new graduation
requirements will impact schools as some courses drop to the middle school level to better
prepare students for high school. She said this will continue to challenge all high schools as
to how will we provide appropriate staffing as we change the dynamics of what students take.
She said that with the current staffing at the three high schools it would be difficult to meet
the demands of the new graduation requirements. She further stated that the new
requirements say that we must still offer all the range of courses for CTEs and other
electives, as we should.

Ann Jestes asked if DPI had made provision to fund the additional positions that will be
required to meet the new graduation standards. Dr. Hart said that she knows of a cost
analysis that is being conducted at the present time and that the Superintendents Association
has told DPI that additional positions will be necessary if the new requirements are to be
successfully implemented. Dr. Hart said that in her experience with funding from the State,
school systems get the money needed to match the mandate about a quarter of the time. She
noted that some disciplines and courses lend themselves to online options better than others
and could not be counted on as alternative learning settings for all courses.

Question/Comment #18B: A Northwood teacher proposed the following scenario: A student
had twenty absences during the semester, so he will receive no credit in the course due to
excessive absences; however, the student shows up to take his EOC exam even though he is
not proficient in the course and will most likely fail the EOC exam. Can that student be kept
from taking the exam?

Dr. Hart stated that a school could not prevent a student from coming to school because his
test score may hurt class proficiency rates. Furthermore, the State requires that schools attain
a 95% participation rate on EOC exams. She said that she has an ethical dilemma when it
comes to telling a student that he should not come in to take a test. It would be possible for a
student to show proficiency on the test even if he does not receive credit for the course, even
though it is not likely that the student in this scenario would achieve proficiency on the exam.
Dr. Hart stated that the student should actually be encouraged to take the test.

Question/Comment #19: Terri Fannin expressed concern that the implementation of the dutyfree lunch for certified staff will not hold up throughout the county unless a district-wide plan is developed.

Dr. Hart responded that the State said that schools must develop a plan that is addressed and approved by all teachers as well as the administration. She reported that teacher assistants have been added in all K-3 schools this year and that this additional staffing should help schools meet the duty free lunch requirement. However, she said that it would be impossible to have one district level plan that meets the needs of all schools due to the diverse nature of the schools in Chatham County. She assured the TAC members that it is her understanding that principals and schools will meet requirements that are issued by the State. She said that teachers are most creative when it comes to solving complex problems. Duty free lunch is another unfunded mandate for school systems.

Question/Comment #20: Juanita Bowman reported that she was blocked from NCAE.org
when she tried to access information regarding the North Carolina Retirement System.

Dr. Hart advised her to contact John Warf, Chatham County Schools Network Administrator, to
correct the problem. She reminded the group that it could have been a function of the day
with the server. Dr. Hart stated that Chatham County Schools is becoming “tech savvy” and
that the demands of keeping the network up and running present challenges for our good
technicians.

Question/Comment #21: Dr. Hart stated that for the first time the State required extended
and unlimited testing time for all students taking EOC exams, with the exception of the
Biology EOC exam. All three high schools reported having students with extended first
period exams that caused those students to miss the beginning of second block exams, which
in turn resulted in the need to reschedule the second period exam. Each high school made
telephone calls to parents of students who were still in exams at 3:00 o’clock.

Dr. Hart reported that other districts scheduled one exam per day even though that schedule
reduces regular instructional time. She said she would consider one test per day in the future.
She explained that the additional time for EOC exams was allowed because students must
now pass EOC exams in order to meet the North Carolina graduation requirement. She said
that no one anticipated the large number of students who utilized extended time in order to
complete exams.

Question/Comment #22: Dr. Hart thanked Mary Catherine McCauley and North Chatham
School for the wonderful refreshments. She encouraged those in attendance to support our
young people at the basketball games between Jordan-Matthews and Chatham Central
scheduled for Thursday night.

J.S. Waters School will host the next TAC meeting on February 21, 2007. The meeting adjourned at 4:21 p.m.

 
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