‘Wild finish’ to summer sets stage for new school yearWith expressions of relief and gratitude, all the Cloquet schools reported a smooth start to the school year, considering the staffing and construction upheavals over the summer.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
With expressions of relief and gratitude, all the Cloquet schools reported a smooth start to the school year, considering the staffing and construction upheavals over the summer.
“It’s been a wild finish to the summer,” said Superintendent Ken Scarbrough at Monday’s regular board meeting.
A few gaps remain, however. One gap was pointed out by three middle school math teachers who explained that their successful math initiatives could take them on a path to burn-out. While pointing to the new Math Navigators program for students struggling with math, and Ramp-up to Algebra for students failing that subject which have raised middle school test scores, the extra time and effort is taxing.
“All three of us have been overloaded,” said teacher Stefanie Biebl. “Sooner or later it’s going to catch up with us and we won’t be as effective as we’d like to be.”
Biebl presented figures that show last year’s Cloquet eighth-graders ranked at 73 percent while the state average was at 60 percent. Cloquet seventh-graders ranked at 71 percent with the state average at 63 percent. More importantly, she said, for the first time in a long time, Cloquet Middle School students came out on top regionally in math scores.
The burn-out issue was raised because teachers typically have a study hall in their schedule when they can make time to work with struggling students. These math teachers have taken on the extra classes instead of study halls.
“We don’t have time except before and after school to be available to help students,” said Biebl.
Board member Jim Crowley expressed appreciation to the staff and administration for their extra effort.
Also Monday, after approving the hiring of new staff, the board continued to wrestle with the activities director position at the high school. At heart is the question of how to compensate this position for work outside of the regular school day and school year, when much of the work is done. Tom Lenarz, who currently holds the position, is also a teacher bound by teacher union contracts.
In comparing Cloquet’s activities director position with neighboring schools, Scarbrough said Cloquet’s contract seemed “fairly reasonable.” He recommended that the board replace two extra service agreements for work done outside the regular school year with one contract for $8,945. Compensatory time – basically an hour off for any extra hour worked – could be negotiated throughout the year.
Both board members Sandy Crowley and Jim Crowley expressed concern about teachers using “comp time.” Sandy Crowley said she felt teachers wanted to trade time out of the classroom for days off.
“We should be more like the private sector, where you’re hired to do a job and you do it, without comp time,” she said. “It takes a person out of the classroom. I have a problem with comp time for all positions.”
The point was then made that comp time is used regularly by administrators for secretary positions, and between teachers who trade classroom supervision time if they need time for personal leave.
The recommendation from Superintendent Scarborough passed unanimously with the amendment that comp time be limited to three days.