More than 60 parents, teachers and students met April 18 to discuss the common schedule coming to all 4J high schools. Organized by a group called 4J Parents Supporting Public Schools, the meeting brought together people from all four high schools, who expressed frustration with both the 4J School Board’s mandate and the process leading up to it.
“The thing that concerns me most is the decision-making process and how this decision was arrived at,” Sheldon High School parent Lloyd Madden said. “It feels like a propaganda campaign.” Madden said teachers at Sheldon had told him they’d been reprimanded for making comments against the new schedule.
“Teachers who questioned or challenged this have been given consequences,” echoed Amanda Deedon, a parent volunteer at Churchill High School, which implemented the 3×5 this year.
“There was an imbalance of power in that room,” explained Eugene Education Association President Tad Shannon, of the meetings of the committee formed by 4J Superintendent Sheldon Berman to select a common schedule.
“We have always worked collaboratively for the best of the kids,” South Eugene High School teacher Franzi Thompson said, “and we have never experienced treatment like this.” Teachers feel their opinions have been given no more than lip service by the board and superintendent, she added.
“Teachers feel ignored” by the district’s decision-making process,” South teacher Ken Davis added.
Two members of the school board, Jennifer Geller and Mary Walston, attended the meeting, but said they came to listen only.
In response to audience questions, teachers on the panel voiced greatest concern over the loss of time to develop relationships. Getting high school students to trust a teacher takes time, explained North Eugene High School teacher Claire Wiles, and “after 12 weeks, you will be done with your kids.”
The 3×5 schedule has been promoted by the district as a way to raise its high school graduation rate by providing time in the third trimester for remediation. Moderator and parent Jane Cramer said research has shown that merely changing a school’s schedule doesn’t necessarily result in better outcomes for students.
Shannon said achievement gaps in 4J were the result of “systematically disinvesting in our public schools,” while Churchill counselor Shannon Rosetta said that graduation figures “do not really reflect what is going on,” since they don’t include students who finish high school at community colleges or take the GED.
At an earlier school board meeting, the board reiterated its intention to move ahead with the 3×5 schedule this fall. 4J Parents Supporting Public Schools will hold a second meeting at 7 pm Thursday, April 25, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 13th and Chambers. — Abby Gershenzon