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Letters to the Editor - July 8, 2013

  • Written by Readers

The ground work to move the Northshore School District to a school calendar that includes Instructional Planning and Collaboration Time began a decade ago.  In the next school year, educators will have 95 minutes per week to plan and collaborate, without any loss of instructional time for students. 

This was accomplished by adding back to the school calendar five full days of instruction, and extending each school day by five minutes.

Additionally, the Northshore Education Association has been working for years to bring forth a new semester system for elementary schools and for a more effective teacher evaluation system, both of which will be implemented in the next school year.

These reforms will allow the Northshore School District to continue as a leader in the state. This is exciting because as our community’s teachers, we know that these reforms, all brought forth by teachers from the ground up, will make both the work and learning environment which can’t be separated a better place for students.

During the 2003-2004 school year, the Northshore School District Elementary Design Team, comprised of both teachers and administrators, began studying different early release/late arrival models, school districts both in and out of our state, instructional models in other countries such as Finland, and implications for the configuration of the school day . 

They brought their recommendation forward in the 2005-2006 school year in a formal set of recommendations: buy new curriculum, improve the elementary report card, and implement an early release/late arrival model to allow for greater collaboration between teachers. Once the economy collapsed, all attention turned to maintaining what programs we could.

NSEA began surveying teachers on this topic in 2010, again in 2011, and again in 2013. Every time the results were the same with the majority of NSEA members wanting to go to this model to provide time for planning and collaboration. At our General Membership meeting, by a vote of 76 percent to 24 percent, the teachers of the Northshore Education Association ratified changes to the evaluation system, calendar, and elementary semesters. This change was made to improve the quality of instruction for our students.  We know that when we have time to talk, observe, and learn from each other, our teaching is more effective. 

Our goal is to improve student learning, and this time will allow us to plan better lessons and learn from our colleagues’ best practices.  This time will also allow a better coordinated education program for our students with unique learning needs. By allowing time for teachers to collaborate with each other about specific program modifications needed by these students their unique learning needs will be better addressed.

With all of the changes coming at teachers over the next five years we felt even more strongly that now was the time for this change. These changes include the implementation of the new evaluation system, new Common Core Teaching Standards, new Smarter Balance Student Assessment System, new Graduation Requirements that begin next year, and with the hopeful passage of our bond and levy, the construction of a new high school along with grade reconfiguration for all schools. 

Additionally, as teachers will now be evaluated on their ability to collaborate, it was necessary  to provide time for them to do so. 

The final decision to have the Instructional Planning and Collaboration Time on Wednesdays is one based upon what the education professionals believe is best for the overall academic program. Teachers felt by having this time on Wednesdays it would afford them the opportunity to put into practice the next day some of the best practices they will have discussed.

NSEA feels that we have struck a good balance between the time needs of teachers, school buildings, and administration as to how the time will be used most effectively. NSEA also worked hard with the district bargaining team to find a way to meet the parameter set by the School Board to not reduce instructional time. 

With the complete elimination of all Learning Improvement Days (non-student teacher work days) by the state Legislature, the Instructional Plan and Collaboration Time model being implemented is the most cost neutral way of completing this important work. 

With the continued underfunding for our schools, this cost savings is the way we protected our students from further cuts to programs or further increases to class sizes. 

This is accomplished by folding this work into the regularly contracted day.  To do this after the end of our contracted work day is a model that Northshore, and most of our surrounding school districts cannot afford.  In the end this saves money for our district.

Change is not always an easy process. 

It will never meet everyone’s needs. As we move forward with these changes, please know that we as the professional educators of the Northshore Education Association are now well equipped to continue to lead the way in excellence in education.

Tim Brittell

President

Northshore Education Association

 

My husband, Don, and I are hosting a book sale/fundraiser in our front yard to help with the massive medical expenses and rehabilitation costs for Bothell’s Jessie Owen.

Jessie is a 6th grade teacher at Frank Love Elementary.  She was paralyzed last December when a snow-laden tree crashed onto her family SUV, while driving over Stevens Pass. 

The accident killed her parents and caused critical injuries to her sister and brother-in-law.

The books will be free, but we’re asking for a dollar amount donation to help with Jessie’s expenses.

All proceeds go to HelpHOPELive.org in Jessie Owen’s name.

WHEN:  Saturday, July 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE:  20902-33rd DR. SE, Bothell 98021 (Canyon Firs Development near Canyon Creek Elementary, Bothell)

Suzanne Beyer (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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