The leadership of the union that represents teachers and paraprofessionals at schools in Riverside Elementary District 96 have agreed to meet with a group of parents who are pushing for the district to change its recently adopted plan to let students out of school an hour early one day a week next year so teachers can be trained in the new Common Core curriculum.

The meeting of what is being called the Instruction Time Committee is scheduled to take place on June 5 at 4 p.m.

Members of the committee will include Karen Foley, a pediatrician and District 96 parent who strongly criticized the early release policy at the May school board meeting and called for a committee to study the issue. 

Other members will include Patty Gill, the president of the Riverside Education Council (REC); Bill Howes, the president-elect of the REC; and Helen Hart-Bryan, the vice president of the union. Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis and Director of Academic Excellence Brian Ganan will also serve on the committee.

After the May 20 school board meeting, Gill and Howes issued a statement saying the REC would not participate in any committee to re-examine the early release policy, but apparently school board President Mary Rose Mangia convinced them to meet with Foley and other parents.

Other parents are expected to join the committee and participate in the meeting. Sharma-Lewis said Foley will pick the other parents on the committee.

“Six parents did contact me to be on the committee as well, so I have forwarded their names to Karen Foley and then she’ll decide who wants to come with her,” Sharma-Lewis said.

Mangia recommended that Sharma-Lewis and the REC meet with Foley’s group.

“I recommend an initial meeting, ASAP, with Dr. Foley and her group,” Mangia told Sharma-Lewis in an email last week. “Let’s see where it goes from there.

“The staff and the PLT (Parent Leadership Team) have already been well represented in the recommendations. Please let Dr. Foley recommend a group that might provide another perspective.”

Foley and three other parents met with Sharma-Lewis last month to discuss the early release plan. After the meeting, Sharma-Lewis contacted Foley and offered to create a committee in September to study the issue of instructional time. That did not satisfy Foley, who wanted to have the chance to change the policy before it is implemented. 

In April, the school board approved the early release plan by a 5 to 2 vote. But after Foley’s presentation, some board members who had voted in favor of the early release policy, including Mangia, wanted to reconsider the issue.

Foley says she hopes the committee can come up with a compromise that all groups can live with.

Sharma-Lewis was non-committal when asked whether she expects the early release policy to be changed.

“It’s too soon to say either way,” Sharma-Lewis said.