Way back in January, over the objections of just about everyone affected, the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees tacked a mandatory 45 minutes onto every teacher's workday. How the teachers used the time would be up to principals.
Not surprisingly, the decision sparked considerable resentment among teachers who felt the move, made without their input, was an assault on their professionalism and a waste of their time.
Their grievances were pretty well summed up by Hobie Hukill, a librarian at Samuell High School, who told the board, to loud applause from fellow teachers, that the policy had led to "a sorry cascade of unintended consequences that we've experienced over the last four months: Less contact with parents and students, more wasted time in meetings, childcare hardships, increased absenteeism, dismal morale, and an unprecedented number of job vacancies."
Those concerns have been addressed, at least for the rest of this school year. The board voted last night to restore teachers' seven hour, 45 minute workday. It was, in Hukill's words, "a substantive gesture of goodwill that might help reestablish positive working relationships with the teachers."
The vote was unanimous, but that's not to say that trustees, not to mention Superintendent Mike Miles, think the extra 45 minutes is such a bad idea. The proposal trustees were initially set to consider last night wouldn't have eliminated the extra time but would have effectively put the decision in Miles' hands. And Miles made it clear that he is in favor of keeping the longer workday, albeit with more flexibility.
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Under his proposal, two days per week of the extra time would be dedicated to tutoring and other student-centered activity; two days would be spent at the discretion of the teacher; and only one day would be determined by the principal.
Board president Lew Blackburn supported that and chided teachers for refusing to compromise, thereby setting a bad example for students. But there was general agreement among trustees that, as Dan Micciche put it, "the 45 minutes has not been used in an effective way across the district" and, as Eric Cowan put it, there has been a clear "implementation failure." In the end, Blackburn agreed and cast his vote with the proposal introduced by Carla Ranger to eliminate the extra 45 minutes.
That's not to say that there won't be another try to extend teachers' workdays. Miles promised another push, albeit with more input and better implementation.
"We have to ... involve teachers," Miles said. "We're going to be doing that, we have been doing that, this year, and we're going to be doing that this spring."