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Teachers oppose plan to increase their workload

Move would save $375,000 per year

May 5, 2010

A proposal to have teachers at Brookfield East and Central high schools teach an additional class period each day is coming under fire from some faculty members who say the change could ultimately hurt students and overwork the staff.

School officials are considering moving to a block schedule system in the 2011-12 school year, which would require instructors to teach six out of the eight class periods in a school day, an increase from the current five periods.

With instructors teaching more periods, about three fewer full-time equivalent positions would be needed per school, which would save about $375,000 per year, the district says.

But the idea isn't sitting too well with some teachers, including Leanne Wied-Brusky, an East math teacher and parent of two Central students. She was one of four teachers who recently expressed concern about block scheduling.

"I would caution you to carefully consider the … the ability of teachers to effectively handle a 20 percent increase in student load," she told the School Board last week.

Despite those concerns, board members voted to begin planning for the switch.

The increased workload would be partly offset by not requiring teachers to supervise during study hall and lunch, as is current practice. Instead, additional staff would be hired to supervise students during those times.

An additional burden

But Joslyn Hegelmeyer, a Central foreign language teacher, said it would still mean a lot of extra work for her and other teachers.

"If we add a course … that's 28 more students I need to connect with, 28 more parents I've got to be communicating with, 28 more kids to assess, to evaluate," she said, "and we have so much that we're trying to get done already with the kids that we have."

Under the proposed block scheduling model, students would have each class three times per week, compared with five times per week under the current schedule. Hegelmeyer said this would have a negative impact on foreign language students.

"The absolute key component for us is kids hearing and using language every single day," she said, "and (block scheduling) is going to have a major impact on our ability to increase oral proficiency for our students if kids are not seeing us, talking to us, using language, hearing language on a daily basis."

Study team backs idea

Block scheduling was unanimously recommended by a study team of principals, teachers and parents from Central and East.

East social studies teacher Patrick Coffey, a member of that team, said the idea has potential but comes with unanswered questions. Trying to switch to block scheduling by fall of 2011 might not provide enough time to answer those questions.

"My concern today is that we are pushing this too fast," he said.

Board members Meg Wartman and Tom Gehl said it makes sense to plan for the change now, while continuing to gather input from the community. Gehl said the board will take a vote in July to decide if and when block scheduling will actually be implemented.

The teachers union would have to sign off on a switch to block scheduling. The issue is a part of ongoing contract negotiations between the district and union.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: District staff and residents can weigh in on proposed changes in Elmbrook's 2011-12 budget at a series of listening sessions.

WHEN: 7 p.m. May 20; 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. May 21; 4 and 7 p.m. May 26

WHERE: Elmbrook central offices, 13780 Hope St., Brookfield

ONLINE: elmbrookschools.org

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