By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Eddie Lawrence’s proposed the annual school calendar again include an extra 45 minutes of instruction per day, and school board members are in a quandary. The proposal was made at the board’s Feb. 14 meeting.
The state requires at least 180 days of instruction, 5.5 hours per day, for a total of 990 hours every year. Lawrence’s proposal includes 6.3 hours of instruction per day, the equivalent of 22 extra school days.
School board member Maxine Rasmussen asked why the extra time is needed.
“This board is adamant that we will raise student achievement. You tell me how we’re going to raise student achievement only going the minimum,” Lawrence answered.
“How does that extra time … play into our ability to retain our teachers, their absenteeism because of the longer days?” school board member Nancy Proto asked.
“I don’t know how you would figure that out,” but, “I really don’t think we can cut instruction any tighter,” Lawrence said.
“I think we have to have our kids in school,” he continued. “We’re sending these kids home to neighborhoods that are dangerous … filled with felons and pedophiles.”
School board member Randy Parks said the extra 45 minutes in the school day should be put to creative use. School board member Jo Ann Molera said she would like more than half of students to participate in after-school programs.
“If you use that 45 minutes for non-instruction, it does not count toward your 990 hours,” Lawrence cautioned.
“I get that, but I also know when they’re tired, they don’t learn,” Rasmussen said.
Parks said students should have an “exciting” activity to look forward to at the end of the day. Molera suggested the time be devoted to a hands-on, ongoing “project-based activity.”
School board members considered continuing the discussion of the complex topic at their next retreat.
Through a new public relations initiative called This Is Us, started by Director of Instructional Technology Diane Powers, the division hopes the community will get to know the people that create a “sense of family” in the division.
For this program, which borrows its name from a popular family TV show, staff will produce video clips to post online, each featuring a different school employee, retiree, student, or alumnus, explaining “their relationship with Northampton County Public Schools and why it’s a good relationship.” The goal is “to really show off all the gems that we have here in Northampton, the unsung heroes,” Powers said.
Melvin Burton, the head custodian at Northampton High School who started as a bus driver in 1973, is the first to be featured in the series of two-minute video clips. He was interviewed on camera by information technology/research technology personnel A.J. Ward.
Watching the clip, the viewer will “feel his spirit and the greatness that he is,” Powers said of Burton.
“What we’re trying to recapture … is that sense of community, that sense of family that Northampton had back in its golden years,” Lawrence said.
The next clip will feature a student – Forrest Flynn, Northampton High School’s star pole vaulter.
The videos will appear on the homepage of the Northampton schools website, www.ncpsk12.com
Powers is also working on making it easier for parents to find information on the website.
During the discussion on the school calendar for next year, Lawrence said he would like to schedule a Ruby Payne staff development session in November.
Payne is an educator and author who trains teachers to understand the culture of poverty and how it affects children’s education.
“We talk about social-emotional learning, we talk about all these other things, but we need somebody to come in and talk to our teachers, new and old, about the effects of poverty. We have a poverty learning deficit in our division,” Lawrence said.