By Bob Skolnik
The first meeting of the so-called Instructional Time Committee in Riverside Elementary School District 96 left the parents who most wanted the meeting frustrated.
Those parents, led by Karen Judy Foley, are upset about an early release plan the school board adopted in April, which would release students from school an hour early once a week so teachers can receive training in the new Common Core standards, get other professional development, and collaborate.
"The REC [Riverside Education Council] reps and the administration would not find any room for compromise," Foley said. "Our hope was to add [school board member] Art Perry's position to add 15 minutes on Tuesday through Friday to make up for that time and they keep saying their contract restricts them."
Juliet Boyd, a parent who was part of Foley's group, was also disappointed in the reaction from the union representatives and administration.
"They were very hostile," Boyd said. "It did not seem that anything that would extend the school day is something that either the administration or the union was receptive to at all. They dismissed all the things we discussed: extending the school day, doing it outside the school day and paying teachers."
Rory Dominick, a parent member of the committee who supports the early release policy, suggested that the district could restore the lost instructional time by cutting back teacher-directed physical education in the elementary schools. Shortening the advisory period at Hauser was also suggested as a way to make up for time lost to the early release.
Dominick and Boyd will meet with Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis, Director of Academic Excellence Brian Ganan and the union representatives Wednesday afternoon to see if they can come up with a concrete proposal to present to the school board at its June 17 meeting.
Cutting back on teacher-directed physical education was first presented to the school board by the administration back when the idea of a late start was presented to the school board back in January, but it received a tepid response.
Attending last week's committee meeting were eight parents — four supporting the early release policy and four opposed — three leaders from the teachers' union, school board President Mary Rose Mangia, school board member David Kodama, Ganan and Sharma-Lewis.
"It was discouraging, because I felt like we were sort of outnumbered," Foley said.
Boyd said that she is doubtful that today's meeting will be a whole lot more productive.
"Unless the tone of the administration and the union changes quite a lot, I don't hold out whole lot of hope," Boyd said.
Mangia says that Foley's research and concern about lost instructional has caused her to reconsider her earlier vote for the early release plan.
"This changed my view of this totally and again I guess would like to say that I would not vote the way I did again based on her work," Mangia said." But on the other hand we still have to be ready for Common Core, and there was just a risk of not doing something."
Mangia said she hasn't made up her mind whether to have the board vote on June 17 to rescind the early release policy or come up with another alternative.
"I guess that's my decision, isn't it?" Mangia said. "I'm telling you it's a toughie. I go back and forth on it. I don't want to predict what I'm going to do."
Kodama said he sees no reason to reconsider the early release policy, but he said he is willing to listen to ideas about making up the lost time.
"I will just be waiting to see what the committee comes up with," Kodama said. "If there is a viable option to do that, I'm willing to listen to it. It's not my understanding that the current proposal for early release is being reconsidered."
Kodama thanked the leadership of the REC for attending the meeting after first saying that they would not participate in the committee.
"I think we are very fortunate to have leadership amongst the REC that are willing to make time to listen to those thoughts," Kodama said.