Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 28, 2014

4 + 1 = concerns in the community

By Brooks Taylor | Oct 18, 2012
Pat Coen, Superintendent of Schools, discusses the coming four-day school week during the WACO School Board meeting.

WAYLAND — Although comments made previously at WACO School Board meetings and public forums concerning the planned 4 + 1 innovative calendar have been positive, all is not rosy.
Former WACO School Board member and Wayland civic leader Robert Achen said he is concerned by some of the comments he has heard in the community regarding the four-day school week proposed for the 2012-13 school year.
“I’m not here to argue merits,” Achen told the board during last night’s regular WACO School Board meeting, ‘but I become concerned when I heard that some solid WACO families say they are going to open-enroll their kids out.”
The concerns Achen has heard are concerning child care, transportation and longer school days.
Achen suggested the board survey WACO patrons regarding their intentions for the 2012-13 school year.
“I think that (survey) is good for two reasons,” Achen continued. “Not only will you find out if they have some real issues but you are also asking the community what they think instead of forcing it on them. At least this way if you survey them, they know that you care and it would be harder for them to leave.”
He said that maybe the treats are just that “but it really concerns be. If you don’t listen to your constituents you could be in for a rude awakening next fall when you do your enrollment count.”
The board did not have any comment regarding Achen’s concerns.
Most of Monday night’s meeting centered on the 4 +1 week. WACO will become the first district in the state to have the four-day school week during the entire school year come next fall.
Tom Ferguson, who chairs the 4 + 1 committee, said he has been working with the enrichment subcommittee “to take classroom learning into more real-world learning.”
He also reported on a meeting that he and some other 4 + 1 committee members had recently with Pleasantville School teachers, coaches and administrators. Pleasantville is the only other school district in Iowa to have the four-day week but uses it just nine weeks during the winter months.
“They (Pleasantville) have had it for three years and did it for money,” Ferguson, a secondary language-arts teacher and coach at WACO, said. “However, they said it has really improved the academic quality of the school. Reading and math scores have improved, attendance and graduation rates have gone up and they have seen nothing negative with the longer school days. They were very positive about it.”
Elementary music teacher Amy Langr, who also was on the visit to Pleasantville, said the district has saved about $40,000 a year during the four-day weeks. She said Pleasantville offers free day care at the elementary school during the fifth day. “They are willing to work with our staff. They said they wouldn’t know what to do if they had to go back to the five-day week.”
Ferguson also noted that Pleasantville science teachers said they covered three more chapters of material during the new schedule than they formerly did under the old calendar. “They said that students are more engaged.”
Asked by WACO Board President Tim Graber how planning was progressing for the new calendar, Tina Whalen, vice chair of the 4 + 1 committee, said teachers are feeling pressure in the planning process.
“They are feeling pressure because they don’t think things are getting done as quickly as they want them to be,” Whalen explained. “We have people who want to do this very bad and they are putting a lot of work in. We are supporting each other.”
In concluding the discussion, Superintendent of Schools Pat Coen said the district will have a “trial run’ of the four-day week sometime in April or May of 2013.
Other agenda items saw the board vote to discontinue the superintendent sharing agreement with Winfield-Mt. Union. Coen, currently serves as superintendent of both districts. When the districts agreed to the 28E agreement sharing Coen’s services, the state provided financial assistance to encourage sharing of superintendents but the state no longer funds the initiative.
Last week, Coen told the Winfield-Mt. Union School Board that the two districts “made about $250,000” under the incentive but since the incentive is no longer available, “it doesn’t make sense to share.” The Winfield-Mt. Union School Board approved terminating the 28E agreement during its Oct. 10 meeting.
In remaining personnel matters, directors accepted the resignation of Theresa Mahan, secondary teacher associate. Contracts were approved for Bert Miller, school librarian, and Michelle Wade, basketball scorekeeper. Miller will work two days weekly at the school — one day at the elementary school and one day at the junior-senior high school.
WACO board members meet again in regular session Monday, Nov. 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the media center at the junior-senior high school.



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