Anna Muselman presents benefits of shortened school week at board meeting

Trenton R-9 School District

Approximately 40 to 50 Trenton R-9 School District employees and community members attended a presentation on October 10 regarding the possibility of a four-day school week. Trenton Teachers Association President Anna Muselman presented information at the Trenton Board of Education meeting. The meeting was relocated to the Trenton High School Performing Arts Center because a large turnout was anticipated. The board did not make a decision on the matter.

Muselman reported that in districts that transitioned to a four-day school week, student attendance rose. On average, the attendance rate during the first quarter for recently implemented schools rose from 91.87% to 95.81%. Additionally, research indicated an uptick in staff attendance, which led to fewer substitutes and enhanced instruction quality.

Studies have shown that schools with a four-day schedule observed heightened student engagement, improved morale, and reduced discipline incidents.

Regarding academic achievement, research is either inconclusive or suggests no significant change. However, some Missouri schools observed a slight boost in student assessment scores after the transition. Muselman noted that several schools the TTA contacted saw a minor rise in certain areas.

Muselman emphasized that the quality of instruction, rather than the number of school days, primarily determines student success. She added that Trenton R-9 aims to amplify its educational impact by attracting and retaining skilled educators. A shortened school week has been found to draw more qualified candidates for open positions and aid in retaining current staff.

She believed that implementing a four-day week might address certain issues raised in employee exit interviews. Feedback from the previous year pinpointed areas like communication, discipline, and organizational culture as needing enhancement.

She highlighted the staffing scenario by mentioning that 12 certified positions were open the previous school year with 11 applications, while 14 positions were open this year, attracting 17 applications. Several vacancies were filled by retired educators under a critical shortage scheme.

According to Muselman, a four-day school week could align with the district’s Comprehensive School Improvement goals related to attendance, leadership, and development.

She noted that 30% of Missouri schools, totaling 155 institutions, have adopted the four-day model this academic year. Among these, 27 schools have student populations ranging between 900 and 1,200. Nearby districts that follow this pattern include Grundy County R-5, Newtown-Harris, Milan, Linn County, Meadville, Winston, Ridgeway, Lathrop, Pattonsburg, Albany, Hale, and Tina-Avalon. Nationally, 900 districts across 26 states have embraced the four-day week.

Most districts with this model designate Monday as their day off. Muselman explained that this schedule facilitates scheduling appointments and complements many Monday holidays.

The current Trenton R-9 calendar has seven Monday holidays, excluding extended holiday breaks. Nineteen weeks on this calendar are full five-day weeks. Adopting a four-day week would mean the removal of two early dismissal days reserved for professional development.

A consistent four-day schedule would simplify childcare arrangements for parents, Muselman argued. One district reported that parents found a stable schedule easier to manage than sporadic days off.

Students would maintain their Monday sports practices and games. Those attending the Chillicothe vocational-technical school would continue their Monday classes.

Trenton R-9 Superintendent Daniel Gott disclosed that this was the second time a four-day week had been discussed with the board. While he had reservations, he believed further investigation was warranted.

While he hoped for academic improvements, he hadn’t observed consistent growth in all districts with the shortened week. He expressed a desire to get feedback from the entire community, not just parents, before making any decisions.

Gott suggested that the Trenton Teachers Association share their findings with the community, possibly through town hall meetings. He also expressed interest in devising a detailed plan for how a four-day week would be structured at Trenton R-9.

Muselman shared that the TTA had extensively researched the topic and received significant feedback. While the Trenton Republican-Times offered to assist with a community survey, Muselman preferred to wait until after the October 10 presentation.

Gott mentioned the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s stance against a four-day school week. He speculated that regulations around required school hours might change in the future. (Gott later clarified his statement regarding DESE and the four-day school week in a separate news release.)

Board President Brandon Gibler commended the presentation and expressed gratitude for the Trenton Teachers Association’s efforts.

On October 10, the Trenton R-9 Board of Education endorsed a grant application and examined performance data.

The GEC Community Foundation Grant application, submitted by Preschool Teacher Colbi Kirk, seeks $987 for two additional taxi-trikes. These tricycles would be used indoors during unfavorable weather, offering students a chance for physical activity. The preschool already owns two such trikes.

The board received data on the Missouri Assessment Plan and End of Course Exams for Rissler Elementary School, Trenton Middle School, and Trenton High School. This data is accessible on the district website’s Board of Education section.

Rissler Principal Sue Gott noted the absence of current state averages, so they compared their scores to the previous year’s. She aims to boost proficiency scores and align the curriculum with state math priorities derived from MAP scores. Currently, they are undergoing new curriculum training for math, while their English Language Arts curriculum remains robust.

Gott outlined future steps for Rissler, including collaboration to develop a literacy framework for the entire school and leveraging a professional learning community approach to tailor instruction based on student’s academic needs.

Board Member Dorothy Taul inquired about third and fourth-graders’ performance. Principal Gott responded that their scores were on par with state averages, but the school constantly aims to elevate its standards.

Superintendent Daniel Gott mentioned that a significant number of students were lagging behind their grade level. However, he expressed optimism about ELA and math at Rissler, praising the school’s initiatives while acknowledging the need for time to see results.

Scores for Trenton Middle School (TMS) and Trenton High School (THS) in subjects like ELA, math, biology, government, language arts, and Algebra 1 were also shared. Both principals, Mike Hostetter and Chris Hodge, shared insights and future plans for their respective schools.

Director of Academics, Dr. Johannah Baugher, detailed district-wide strategies, emphasizing the need for reevaluating math instruction and ensuring consistent planning across different grades.

Tara Hoffman, the Director of Special Services, provided updates on special education, highlighting initiatives and programs.

Superintendent Gott reported on the summer school program at Trenton R-9, presenting enrollment numbers, attendance rates, and feedback from staff and parents.

A financial breakdown suggested that the summer school generated an estimated net revenue of $146,351 before payroll deductions. Superintendent Gott underscored the importance of the program’s profitability.

Gott also updated the board on safety drills, upcoming infrastructure projects, and developments related to the Safety Grant project.

The Trenton R-9 Board of Education took personnel action in an executive session on October 10th.

Trenton Middle School Paraprofessional Jane Cooksey’s resignation was approved. It was effective September 28th.

Sarah Sager was hired as a TMS paraprofessional.

The board approved substitutes for October. They were Jamie Beverlin, Cara Leininger, and Jane Cooksey.