tree: Nobody’s perfect. So, what do the kids think?
hill: … Getting another day off? What do you think the kids think?
tree: I heard a lot of parents say that their kids just prefer to be in school.
hill: Did you talk to the kids?
tree: Well, no, not exactly. But, I’m sure most kids want to be in school more
hill: Okay, I’ll go there…so, they want to be in school five, seven or six days?
tree: No, they want exactly five days, and it’s only the kids at Longfellow who want five days.
hill: I’m going to have to trust you on that one. Look, the district knows it’s challenging for some working parents. This transition is difficult. Also, the parents I know with older kids all tell me that their kids had tough years when they were younger. Those can be difficult times. Some kids transition from Montessori, while many are learning at radically different paces, and it’s more difficult to find good synchronization with student and teachers at that age. They are the hardest years in education for most people I know, but I’m no expert. I’m just a hill.
tree: So you’re saying it’s not the four-day week frustrating the kids?
hill: I’m not saying that at all, the four-day week is likely compounding those challenging years. However, in some cases the four-day week is an easy scapegoat for parents and kids during challenging years. Parents who have not seen their kids go through high school don’t have a context for how hard elementary school can be. Bullies surface, though they are more discreet these days, and the politics of friendships are tumultuous as kids discover their social footing. But all that aside, many kids also like routine. Salida lost a certain groove, it’s true. Either way, the four-day week is harder on parents of younger kids.
tree: You bet your sweet ass trails, it is. Why don’t you just do a survey and ask people what they think of the four-day week and how it’s affecting them?
hill: Well, a group of people tried that and it didn’t go so well.
hill: Maybe because the survey didn’t remind people that the district was primarily interested in learning some broad information about impact. Also, many people perceived the survey was a license to petition the school board for a return to the five-day week. Lastly, it didn’t reach enough people. Surveys are tricky beasts. Had everyone known how the community would use the data collected, the survey would likely have been rethunk.
tree: That’s not a real word.
tree: …Sigh, after all the discussion about taking a few years before considering a review, why would people confuse the intent of the survey?
hill: Well, some people simply forgot, and again the survey did not map out where we were in the arc of the project.
tree: But, you said the results are so good? Improved testing at every campus? attendance? excedding almost every category in improvement? I guess, if the community can solve the Friday challenges, it’d be difficult to move back, huh?
hill: Very difficult
tree: Wait, I have an idea! Why not just have a five-day week for Longfellow?
hill: Did you attend any of the meetings tree?
tree: Dude, give me a break, just educate me, alright?
hill: Okay, I’m sorry. Here’s the deal, transportation costs are a significant aspect of the cost savings. Opening just one campus on Friday would negate the district-wide savings.
tree: Doh. Right, I remember that now.
hill: Look, I appreciate the “solutions approach,” tree, I really do. Some people simply feel that a five-day week is best. Even if it’s not founded in logic or results or science, I empathize. This was a radical change in the community. Everyone involved in the decision-making process gets it. Most have had to adapt as well. Change is hard.
tree: You are a serious advocate, eh?
hill: Look, tree, many people in the community have had to come around to the idea. District-wide, the four-day week better meets the district’s mission, and the community developed that mission.
tree: It’s all so hard to wrap my branch around. Better for the kids’ education? Really?
hill: I know it’s crazy, but consider there’s more. We save gas, protect the environment, conserve energy and preserve the physical life of our facilities. Kids can get tutoring on Fridays from many teachers, and advanced kids, the ones who want more schooling — can get it. Some teachers are realizing the opportunity to leverage Friday into a way to educate more effectively. At the very least, teachers have more time to prepare for class, more time to grade and honestly, more time to rest. Can you imagine managing all those saplings?
tree: I couldn’t do it.
hill: Me neither.
tree: At least we agree on something.
hill: Well, I’ll bet I can come up with another thing we agree on.
tree: Hit me
hill: Who do you think would be the best people to ask about how it’s working?
tree: The parents.
hill: Hmmmmmm…no. Some parents think that the district has a responsibility to look after their kids. Understandably, they are fixated on their own kids. They are not looking district-wide, they are not seeing results at all the campuses. They don’t experience the district’s cost savings in their homes. They only see their own child, or children. Again, this is understandable.
tree: The district does have some responsibility for looking after kids.
hill: That’s a philosophical position.
tree: Regardless, it’s a community problem because of decisions the district has made. The district passed its problems on to the community.
hill: Don’t be a victim. We need to work together as a community. There are no dark overlords of local schooling here in Salida. Public education in America is in dire straits, so the school board, those district accountability people, principals and many, many people in the public and administration made some hard decisions. To be clear, our district is currently kicking ass because of those decisions. Things are working. This has been in part because, as a community we all honored the mission of educating the kids.
tree: Well, they still passed the costs on.
hill: They are we, tree.
Conversation to be continued tomorrow. PART 3 continues here.