Trenton Board of Education hears presentation from Trenton Teachers Association on 4-day school week

Trenton R-9 School District
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Joel Hultman with the Trenton Teachers Association presented preliminary research regarding a four-day school week during the Trenton R-9 Board of Education meeting on February 8th. The board took no action on the matter.

Hultman reported a survey of teachers showed many wanted more information on a four-day school week. None of the questions specifically asked about a four-day school week. However, there were open-ended questions, and the topic was mentioned in responses.

Trenton Teachers Association President Charley Crimi explained the topic came through the Salary and Welfare Committee. It was decided the matter maybe fit better under the Teachers Association.

Hultman wanted to be proactive and discuss what other school districts are doing regarding four-day weeks. Information in his presentation came from other districts and research from Associate Professor of Counseling, Leadership, and Special Education Doctor Jon Turner from Missouri State University of Springfield.

Hultman explained four-day school weeks have shown recruiting and retaining of quality staff, improved attendance, quality time for families, and collaboration time for staff in preparing for high quality instruction. Morale has been shown to go up, and discipline problems go down.

He said student attendance has increased in districts implementing a four-day week. On average, first quarter attendance from newly implemented schools increases to 95.81% from 91.87%. Staff attendance has also been shown to increase, which decreases substitutes used and improves the quality of instruction. Hultman noted it is difficult to find subs currently, and that could help the problem.

Hultman commented Trenton R-9 has had a shortage of teachers and a decrease in the number of quality applicants for faculty and staff positions. The district wants to stay competitive with area school districts.

Perceived challenges involve free and reduced lunch students, childcare, and academic achievement.

Hultman suggested the supply for a supplemental food program could be increased with revenue savings, and the media center could be staffed with Trenton R-9 employees for Monday openings.

Childcare could be provided and staffed by R-9 employees. Paraprofessionals and others paid hourly could gain hours by helping provide childcare. Trenton High School students seeking community hours, tutoring, or wages could help. Hultman reported childcare was a concern in other area districts, but after implementation, it has not been a problem.

One district reported that, from a parent’s perspective, having a set schedule is more beneficial than trying to find childcare for sporadic days off from school.

Hultman reported Missouri Assessment Program scores tend to be about the same when comparing districts with a five-day school week to those with a four-day week. Research showed multiple Missouri schools initially found a slight increase in student assessment scores. More recent research indicates a small lack of growth over the course of three years. Hultman said districts indicated they have not seen a decrease in student achievement, and most have experienced a slight increase in some areas.

Since 2011, 118 Missouri school districts have gone to a four-day week. Only one has returned to a five-day school week, and that was Lexington. Hultman noted Lexington changed back because of the pandemic and to get more time with students. It is estimated 22 schools will change to a four-day week in 2022.

Area school districts that have gone to a four-day week include Grundy County R-5, Southwest Livingston, Pattonsburg, Winston, Meadville, Albany, Lathrop, Plattsburg, and Tina-Avalon. Putnam County plans to switch for the 2022-2023 school year. Milan and Macon are also discussing the topic.

Hultman reported that, in Missouri, Monday was the most widely used day to be off of school for a four-day week. He noted implementing Mondays as the days off allows for more use of that time for appointments, such as for the doctor or dentist, compared to Fridays. Multiple holidays are also celebrated on Mondays, so no school is already planned for those days.

The current school calendar has seven Mondays off, not including a holiday break, and two early outs for professional development days. Hultman said those would be eliminated if Trenton R-9 changed to a four-day school week.

Trenton would schedule 144 student days, and the length of the day would increase, depending on the chosen schedule. There is a requirement of 1,044 instructional hours, and the district current has about 1,195. With a four-day week, there would be 1,097 to 1,198 instructional hours, depending on the schedule.

Hultman stated students days would be primarily Tuesday through Friday. There would be seven to nine professional development days for staff, and two of those could be for parent-teacher conferences. One Monday almost every month of the school year could be used for professional development days. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring breaks would remain. Snow days would be built in on select Mondays. Hultman said a committee would create and propose the school calendar.

Hours and pay would be similar to what they are now for non-certified staff. Hultman reported that, if the schedule at Rissler Elementary School was from 7:30 to 3:25 and Trenton High School and Middle School was from 7:45 to 3:45, a paraprofessional or cook’s hours would be from 7:15 to 3:45 at Rissler and from 7:30 to 4 o’clock at the high school and middle school. Hours for administrative assistants would be from 7 to 4 o’clock.

Hultman noted a committee would look at the potential schedules and consider the impact on students as a whole.

He mentioned area school districts and their schedules with a four-day week. Grundy R-5 goes from 8 o’clock to 3:38, Lathrop from 7:50 to 3:38, and Plattsburg from 7:50 to 3:40. He added that some districts have hybrid schedules, and some grades are at school four days and others five days.

Activities and practices could still be held on Mondays.

Hultman reported five percent in a fiscal year was the highest financial savings one district reported from going to a four-day school week. On average, financial savings are one percent to two and a half percent.

Hultman presented a potential timeline for approval of Trenton R-9 implementing a four-day school week. He noted the timeline could be changed. It includes a committee being established with stakeholders to organize a survey April 12th and school board approval of survey questions September 13th. It also includes information presented at the performing arts center November 1st through 3rd for parents, community members, and staff; a survey being open for parents, community members, and staff November 7th through 11th; the committee organizing survey results; and presenting to the school board December 13th.

Hultman showed an example from another district as to who committee members could be. Possible members include counselors, administrative assistants, bus drivers, teachers and coaches, school board members, parents, local business owners, and the mayor.

Hultman also provided possible survey questions. They ask someone if he or she thinks moving to a four-day week would benefit the school district if someone would support the change, and if there are any areas of concern.

Trenton R-9 Board President Dorothy Taul reported she had contacted a few schools and had received similar information to what Hultman presented.

The Trenton R-9 Board of Education approved a substitute teacher pay increase and adopted a school calendar on February 8th.

Substitute teacher pay was increased by $20 per day to $110 per day for the remainder of this school year. That includes any substitute who has a certified substitute certificate.

Superintendent Mike Stegman recommended the substitute pay increase due to the difficulty of finding substitutes. He said Trenton R-9 was losing substitutes because of the district’s substitute pay. The administrative team encouraged him to pursue the raise.

He could use reserve funds or possibly Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief 3 money to fund the increase.

Stegman noted there were 25 usable substitutes for Trenton R-9, and the number available when they were needed was usually lower.

The school calendar for 2022-2023 shows the first day of school for students will be August 23rd, and it will be an early out. The last day of school is scheduled for May 18th, 2023, and it is also planned to be an early out. Winter Break is planned for December 19th through January 3rd. The first day of the second semester will be January 4th, 2023. Spring Break is to be March 10th through 13th, 2023. Possible make-up days are May 19th and 22nd, 2023.

Director of Supportive Services Kris Ockenfels reported school calendar drafts were presented to employees, and they voted on which one they liked best. The calendar presented to the board and adopted on February 8th won with more votes.

Spring parent-teacher conferences for this school year will be on March 10th from 2 to 7 o’clock. School will be dismissed early that day, and there will not be school on March 11th or 14th for Trenton R-9.

Trenton High School Principal Kasey Bailey gave the Vocational Report. He said there are three vocational programs in the district: Agriculture, Business, and Family and Consumer Sciences.

He shared some accomplishments. The Trenton FFA Chapter was named the Best FFA Chapter in Missouri. Kidridge Griffin was named the Missouri State FFA Star Farmer.

Instructional Coach Doctor Jill Watkins provided an update.

She reported she submitted the Grow Your Own Teachers Grant and Teacher Retention Grant in January. The Grow Your Own Grant was approved with no changes and the Teacher Retention Grant is being reviewed. She anticipates approval soon.

Watkins said she will start creating the application process and Grow Your Own Teachers Committee. She anticipates opening the Grow Your Own program to applicants in March or April.

She will work with building-level administrators to create a comprehensive two-year curriculum deployment plan and professional development plan to align with the Teachers Retention Grant application.

Watkins reported the Barton reading intervention program is up and running. She worked with the Barton interventionist to place qualifying Rissler Elementary School and Trenton Middle School students in the new intensive reading program.

The district began the program on January 24th for students at risk for reading difficulties or those with dyslexia diagnosis. To start, there were 13 Rissler students and seven TMS students. Watkins noted that now the program serves 14 Rissler students and seven TMS students.

Some curriculum days were rescheduled due to substitute shortages and illness.

She also reported that she thinks teachers are developing connections and growing their confidence through coaching and workshops.

Stegman reported a SafeDefend exercise was January 31st, and it went well. Highway Patrol and Trenton Police officers were present.

He noted there were a few things that needed to be addressed with the system, and the district is working to correct them. SafeDefend is working to speed up the texting system that sends notices to staff and law enforcement. Items that were discovered missing and/or needing to be replaced are scheduled to be replaced this week.

Stegman also reported a fire alarm inspection will be this week at Rissler. The district will then be up to date on fire inspections.

The Comprehensive School Improvement Plan renewal process has started, and Stegman thinks the first meeting went well. He now plans to have two more meetings. One meeting was canceled due to the weather.

Stegman said there are about 32 committee members. They include School Board President Dorothy Taul and Vice President Brandon Gibler, administrators, and community members.

Stegman thinks a good plan will be created. He noted the CSIP is a fluid and ongoing document.

He reported Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief 3 funds have not yet been released. Missouri is the only state to not yet release the money. March 24th is the deadline for the state to release the funds. Stegman said if the funds are not released by then, the money will go back to the federal level and be redistributed.

He reminded board members that the Missouri School Boards Association Spring Regional Meeting will be in Trenton on April 13th.

Seven administrators were re-hired at an executive session Tuesday night of the Trenton R-9 Board of Education. Salaries for the next school year are to be determined by the school board at a future meeting.

Contracts were renewed for Principals Susan Gott, Daniel Gott, and Kasey Bailey.

Contracts also were renewed for Assistant Principals Tara Hoffman, Carolyn Schmidt, and John Cowling. Jill Watkins was hired as director of academics.

Those Hired and approved by the Trenton School Board include Cru Taff as a fourth-grade teacher and Ivy Anderson for preschool para-professional – both for next school year. Lucas Lewis was employed for the middle school boys’ track for this season.

Resignations accepted by the school board were Madison Stahl as assistant middle school basketball coach; Alexis Cook as middle school volleyball coach; and Sheila Polk as a high school para-professional.  Substitutes hired are Karla Lowrey, Taylor Richman, Lucinda Frazier, and Karli Hogan.

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Jennifer Thies

Jennifer’s interest in radio began at a young age. She started as a news reporter at KTTN in January 2017, but previously worked almost a year and a half as an on-air announcer and with news at the NPR affiliate KXCV/KRNW, which serves Northwest Missouri. Jennifer was born and raised in St. Joseph, Missouri. She received a Bachelor of Science in Mass Media: Broadcast Production with an Emphasis in Audio Production from Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville.

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