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Rowan-Salisbury school board discusses planning periods

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@gmail.com

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Monday reviewed a policy that would lay out guidelines for lesson planning and mandate that teachers have an average of five hours of planning time per week

April Kuhn, executive director of administration and legal services, said the policy would help promote the board’s expectations. An average of five hours of planning time is also enforced by statute, she said.

“Pursuant to the school improvement plan, every full-time assigned classroom teacher must be provided duty-free instructional planning time with the goal of providing an average of at least five hours of planning time per week. Principals are responsible for ensuring compliance with this policy. Staff development opportunities should be provided, as necessary, to facilitate compliance,” the policy reads.

Board members had a lot of questions about the policy, as well as how current planning time practices play out. Vice Chairwoman Susan Cox asked whether meetings are scheduled during planning periods or if the planning time is set aside for teachers to work on individual lessons. Kuhn said meetings can be held during that time as long as they are planning meetings.

Cox was in favor of following the five-hour requirement for individual planning times. Elementary school teachers in particular often have all their time eaten up, with their only free period being during enhancement classes. And that is often booked with requirements to meet with literacy coaches and administrators, she said.

Kuhn said that if there is an issue or concern, it should be taken to the school improvement team.

“What I’m hearing you say is if that’s the case, then they need to go back to their school improvement teams and say, ‘There’s a problem here.’” Cox said.

Board Chairman Josh Wagner acknowledged that while team meetings play important roles, there still needs to be an expectation that teachers will be given time to plan for their individual classrooms and students.

“We need to ensure that staff has legitimate planning time,” he said.

Board member Jean Kennedy, however, said that the changing landscape of education might mean that some sacrifices have to be made.

“I think that as we want to move forward with education, we must see that it will necessitate our moving away from what we are accustomed to doing,” she said.

An hour each day during school would not provide all the time needed. Teachers are expected to use technology, participate in activities and participate in professional learning communities, Kennedy said.

“That’s gonna require more time; that’s going to require collaboration,” she said.

Kennedy said that when she was a teacher, she would rather have meetings during the school day than have to stay after school. But she clarified that she is not against teachers having planning time but suggested that maybe one planning period a week could be used for necessary meetings.

Board member Dean Hunter wondered if teachers and principals are aware that there is an expectation of five hours a week. How many need to be reminded of it? he asked.

“So I just wonder, collectively, if this is worthy of some type of reminder to our principals to say, ‘This is important. It’s important to our teachers, it’s important to our board, it’s a statute, it’s a policy,’” he said.

The board agreed that the policy could serve as that reminder and as an outline of expectations.

Cox again argued for elementary school teachers. Meetings during planning periods don’t give teachers adequate time to prepare lessons, she said. In elementary school, teachers are expected to cover math, reading, science and other subjects, which require multiple lesson plans, she noted.

“So that even further devalues their time when they are not allowed to have a true planning time,” Cox said.

The policy will be on the consent agenda for approval at the board’s May 22 meeting.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider 704-797-4264.

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