Editor’s note: This is the final part of a three part series covering topics of discussion during the ACS board of education’s planning session.

Change, generally speaking, can be a difficult matter.
While change is the apparatus of progress, it cannot function without guided motivation and clear communication. During the Ardmore City Schools Board of Education’s planning session, preliminary, and still very early, talks of change were discussed. The potential target of change? The school day schedule.
ACS superintendent Kim Holland and assistant superintendent Jill Day opened the discussions by saying the topic is somewhat “controversial.” The idea, conceptually, would be to add 15 minutes to the school day on every day of the week except Wednesday. On Wednesday, school would either have an early release or a late start, which would give the schools a two hour block for professional development, staff collaboration and dedicated weekly time for teachers and administrators to improve their skills.
Holland said the three or four days set aside for teacher and staff development built into the schedule are useful, but not enough to fully invest in teachers.
“You look at our sports teams they practice everyday nearly year round so they can get better,” Holland said. “So in order for us to excel at the job we’ve been called to do we’re looking for ways to increase the level of performance we have in the district.”
The concept of a late start, or early release, is not new to Oklahoma.
“The main focus was the improvement of teachers and creating a professional learning community,” Lenis DeRiex, assistant superintendent at Deer Creek Public Schools, said of the schedule change, which Deer Creek implemented about 5 years ago. DeRiex said the entire process of implementing the built-in development time worked through a process that included committees, parent meetings and communication with other stakeholders.
DeRiex said Deer Creek has seen substantial, tangible results ranging from improved student academic performance and increased vertical and horizontal alignment. DeRiex said the additional time also allowed the entire staff to work through changes administered at the state level and work through complex issues like state-level standardization changes. The time allowed Deer Creek to “focus on teaching and instruction” and “optimize the time.”
The change at Deer Creek, however, met the same type of opposition and problems that the Ardmore administration said they anticipate. The biggest issue with starting school late is child care. With a late start, or even an early release, the two hour delay before school every Wednesday could complicate some parents ability to get their children to school. DeRiex said the issue was one of the most complex for the district and required ongoing discussions with parents and even local day care centers to determine what approaches were possible to the issue.
In the end, DeRiex said the parents saw the value in the two hour period for teachers each week and as the students looked forward to the mid-week late start, so did parents. Holland said, through in-depth discussions and communication, he hopes the district in Ardmore could also embrace the idea.
“We have to communicate very clearly so they understand why there’s value in this,” Holland said.
“I think we really need to make some moves to invest time in improving our performances as an instructional team.”
The board, in the preliminary discussions, liked the idea of investing in teachers and the staff. Day said Wednesday would be the chosen day because of the generally light athletic schedule on Wednesdays. The entire staff at the schools, including coaches, would take part in the weekly development time.
“I think the extra time being spent on teachers is great,” ACS board member Harry Spring said. Spring said he has discussed professional development with several teachers in the district, all of whom say the time is appreciated. “They all say ‘We are so happy that our school is investing in us.’”
ACS board member Steve Oliver compared the idea to the analogy of a football team and the creation of a culture that embraces great teachers and works to give teachers continuous resources.
“I think seeing that in a teaching staff and across a district is a really great thing,” Oliver said. “I think it’s a tremendous idea.
“It shows we as a district value them and putting training into them.”
Day said the district would continue to also send teachers to out of district professional development and the weekly additional time would allow those trainings to be more effective.
“We can’t ever send a whole school,” she said. “They could come back and that time could be used for them to share what they learned and implement those things.”
Holland said he has already presented the concept to the principals of the district, who were “very much in favor” of the additional development time. Holland said the next step, if the change is a direction the board would consider, is to begin communicating with teachers, parents and the community about the idea of a schedule changeup. Holland said beginning those discussions sooner than later is ideal in order to gauge the plausibly of the alteration.
While change is never easy and never a smooth transition, Holland said he believes parents, teachers and the community would see district wide results if the change was implemented.