Almost 70 people, most of them Arlington elementary school teachers, filled the board room at the Arlington Education Center last week to protest a proposed change in their daily schedule for next year that they feel would hamper their planning time.
The elementary teachers currently release students early on Wednesday, at about 12:30 p.m., and use the rest of the day for planning chores. This allows teachers a block of about 2 1/2 hours each week for planning.
Superintendent Larry Cuban has proposed a new schedule for next year that would give teachers 25 minutes of planning time each day, in addition to the regularly scheduled hour for class preparation. Cuban's proposal would also set aside two full planning days during the school year.
The teachers who appeared before the School Board last week claimed that the superintendent's proposal does not meet teacher's needs and asked the board to again request a variance from a 1977 state law which would allow the Wednesday early-release program.
Under the 1977 law, students are required to spend 27 1/2 hours with the teacher during the week with a minimum of four hours a day spent at school. Arlington's teachers do spend the required total time with studdents each week, although they do not meet the minimum o four hours on Wednesdays.
Although next year's schedule is not to be considered by the School Board until its April 20 meeting, 11 people representing teachers and parent-teacher organizations, appeared before the board to discuss the proposed schedule.
School Board Member Mary Margaret Whipple told the teachers, however, that Cuban's proposal actually provides more planning time than the present system. First-and second-grade teachers would received 138 hours planning time per school year under the new schedule; they currently receive 123 hours. For teachers of grades 3 through 6, th planning time would go up from 153 hours to 164. the teachers said, however, they preferred a block of time for their planning chores.
"Teachers need a solid block of time for in-depth planning ratehr than a few scattered minutes," Charlotte Georgerian of Barrett Elementary School told the board.
"The long block of time, I think, is much more effective than 25 minutes," Laura Murray of Glebe Elementary said. She said that teachers use the solid block of time to develop new courses of study, such as projects for classes that do not use textbooks, communicating with staff members and researching projects.
"I don't know what we'll do without Wednesday planning," teacher Virginia White said." We need it, we deserve it, and we must have it."
Ellen Schoetzau, a teacher at Glencarlyn Elementary School, said, "If we lose our Wednesday afternoon planning time, it will be impossible for us to do all the things we were hired for."
Board Member Richard Barton told the teachers he is worried that their objection to the proposed schedule is being misinterpreted by parents.
"What I'm being told by parents is what teachers are trying to do is cut out the time with students," Barton told the audience. The teachers said that is not their objective.
"I think parents do believe that teachers don't want children around," Doris Berghoefer of Barcroft Elementary School said. "It's not that I don't want the children. It's just that I can't concentrate on one job while doing another."
Cuban said he had been surprised by the objections to the plan since he presented it to the board on March 16, especially since the schedule was recommended to him by a committee that included teachers. He said the plan was developed by the teacher representatives on the task force.
"I supported that proposal," he explained. "I thought there was support for the teacher representatives."