School board gets new info on 4-day week

Tonight at 6:30 p.m. there is a public hearing to discuss the proposed four-day/extended day calendar for Williams Unified School District.

Monday night, the WUSD governing board heard new information about the calendar from Brad Ellico, principal at Williams Elementary/Middle School and the main proponent of the change. He presented a few modifications to the plan. They include:

• Students will have consequences for not showing up for school on Friday, if they’re having academic or discipline trouble in school.

“There is no difference between detention after school and coming in on Friday,” Ellico said.

• Bus service will be provided to students attending intervention and those who want to participate in special Friday activities.

“We’re adding transportation,” Ellico said. “Our student intervention is designed for all our children.”

• The school will provide special Friday activities for the other students at the school. Some of the activities might include chess club, cooking, dance, mountain biking, movies or intra-mural sports. Others such as the gifted program, sports or clubs could also be held on Friday.

Joyce McNelly, board member questioned if this solution was viable when she found out parents would be responsible for students.

“If my fourth grader decides to sign herself out, she can?” McNelly asked.

“We’ll sign them in but we’re not a daycare,” Ellico said. “This is a voluntary event. It’s not a school day for non-mandated students.”

The school would try to contact parents when their child signs out, Ellico said.

One local businessperson said she was concerned about the intervention working.

“Don’t forget we had the Excel (Education) program here to help the kids, and it didn’t work because nobody showed up,” said Josefina Killinsworth.

Ellico stressed there are two reasons for looking at the proposal — student and staff development.

The staff development program will be cultivated with the teacher, Ellico said. He said the staff member will be involved in setting their individual goals.

“We want to make sure there are clear objectives and clear measurements,” he said.

In the proposed four-day/extended school year calendar, students would not attend school on Fridays, unless they are mandated to because of academic or discipline issues. The school year would begin early, Aug. 5, and run to June 5. Students would be in the classroom a total of 1,068 hours instead of 176 school days.

Ten Fridays throughout the year would be set aside for teacher development. These days students would not be allowed on campus. All other Fridays would be used for student intervention.

During the special work study session, Ellico said in a survey of WEMS teachers 18 were for the proposed calendar, three were against the calendar and six wanted more information. McNelly questioned Ellico’s findings.

“I’m getting a different response from just talking to teachers,” she said. “I’ve talked to 24 staff members and I have 18 against. For some reason, we’re getting different results.”

Bruce Baker, board member, asked if a confidential staff survey could be conducted by tonight’s meeting. Administration said they could try to get the job accomplished.

Ellico did not address the issue of employment and housing for spouses and families in the Williams area. Because Williams is located near Northern Arizona University, a lot of teachers start their teaching careers in town.

Janet Cothran, board member and volunteer organizer at the schools, said demographics for Williams have changed over the years, causing test scores to drop.

“Test scores were always above average,” she said. “For a long time, even when I was a sub here, I never saw a child who didn’t speak English.”

The lower economic standing of many residents and the increase in the number of free or reduced lunches served at the school is an indicator, Cothran said.

“It shows you the population has changed,” she said. “Now we’ve put limited English speakers back in the classroom.”

Cothran said these children usually lower test scores.

Anyone interested in hearing more on the four-day/extended school year calendar can check out the school’s website, www.wusd2.org, or attend the public hearing tonight. School board members can be contacted by leaving a message for them at the district office, 635-4473.

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