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Board can't un-do pupil-free days

Parents lament that they didn¿t learn of change immediately.

July 13, 2011|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
  • Parents listen to the school board answer questions at the La Canada Unified School District board meeting on Tuesday, July 12, 2011. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Parents listen to the school board answer questions at…

Some 10 district parents carried protest signs designed to make their feelings known, about 50 total parents attended the La Cañada school board meeting Tuesday in an unsuccessful bid to convince the board to rescind its decision to increase the number of pupil-free days from three to seven.

The decision to add four more pupil-free days for teacher collaboration was made in February as part of a new contract agreement with the La Cañada Teachers Association. A discussion on the matter was added to the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting at the request of several parents.

But Governing Board President Susan Boyd made it clear from the beginning that the decision couldn’t be overturned.

“This has become a part of the teacher contract. We cannot unilaterally change that contract. That would have significant legal ramifications,” said Boyd, explaining the discussion being held Tuesday was designed to clear up any misunderstandings or questions the community may have about the issue.

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It didn’t stop the conversation between the board and members of the community, which lasted more than two hours, from getting heated at times. First, Boyd addressed the group of 50 or so people, comprising parents and district teachers, and answered a dozen questions that parents — mainly Ron Dietel, a former LCUSD board member — had asked the board at its June 21 meeting.

“Time is really important to parents and everybody because there's never enough of it,” said Dietel, an assistant director at the UCLA Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing.

Boyd stressed the teacher-collaboration days aren’t training days. The time will be used for teachers to work together, discuss one another’s successes, and learn how to take advantage of their peers’ experiences.

“The teachers are being asked, every year almost, to do more and more work in the same amount of time,” said Boyd, noting that the district had lengthened the amount of instructional time students receive by adding a few minutes to each day of school.

Two of the additional teacher-collaboration days will be used to train teachers on how to use a student-data management system called Illuminate DnA (data and assessment).

“The data will tell teachers where they will need to go back to refine their lessons or what students they need to go back and help,” Boyd said.

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