Staff meetings may alter schedules


Sophomore Sarah Kuhlman looks at her Interim Progress Report (IPR) while juniors Carter Foust and Dani Barnes anticipate their own IPRs on April 23. Students received their report cards on a Monday because of a mix-up in putting correct grades.

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[dropcap style=”simple” size=”10″]C[/dropcap]lasses normally available on third and fourth block may be offered at different times or not at all for some blocks as teachers implement new Professional Learning Team (PLT) times.
PLT meetings are when faculty who teach the same subject work together to better the learning experience of their students and fix problems they experience in the classroom, Betsy Jones, director of counseling said.
Teachers who teach the same classes will have PLT meetings on certain in-class periods next year. This will cause changes to what is offered during any period. The times PLTs meet will be a substantial factor of how schedules are formed next year since it is possible some classes won’t be available one or more periods of the day.
Jones is in charge of the master schedule, a calendar-like spreadsheet that shows what faculty members are responsible for every day. Jones said the master schedule is built into the student information system and schedules students. She builds the schedule during the summer with help from guidance secretary Lisa Jenkins.
Once the master schedule is complete, students are put into the schedule, and their class time periods are determined. The hope, Jones said, is counselors can fix most, if not all, conflicts in the schedule. PLT blocks are of course factored into the upcoming years’ master schedule.
“Dr. Jennifer Rukstad, the principal, has identified blocks in the day that certain PLTs are going to meet,” Jones said. “So, for instance, all Algebra 1 teachers will be off the same block so they can have their PLT time during the school day because right now we do it outside of the school day.”

“PLT meetings will not be strictly for teachers to discuss better methods of reaching students.”–Betsy Jones, head of counseling”

These ‘identified blocks’ are not set in stone because much of the master schedule is yet to be formed.
“PLT meetings will not be strictly for teachers to discuss better methods of reaching students,” Jones said. “Blocks designated for such times will also be opportunities for students to come and ask their teachers for help, as long as those teachers are not meeting with their PLT.”
Using the example of Algebra 1, a student could come during first block on Wednesday needing help on MathXL, but would not be able to do that first block on Friday if that’s when the algebra teachers have their PLT meeting.
Theoretically, however, the student could ask the teacher before or after the PLT meeting is finished, but that really depends on the teachers preferences; as one teacher may need the remainder of the block to plan how to implement the changes discussed in the PLT meeting.
“The expectation is for teachers to meet in their PLT once a week, but that time is also their shared planning, which will probably meet once a month,” Jones said.
Shared planning is an interdisciplinary task force made up of teachers from different content areas that work for improvement in instruction.
Melissa Coil is the head of the Executive Council, a group that makes recommendations to help govern the school. Made up of the principal and six faculty members voted in by their peers, Executive Council members have two-year terms. Coil said the schedule change will help the PLT’s get back to the root of their cause; helping students succeed.
“Next year we felt like the change to the schedule, giving that common PLT time during the day and really trying to get our PLT’s back to doing the work that they’re supposed to do,” Coil said. “You know what do we want kids to learn? What do we do when kids don’t get it? How do we know they’re getting it? Really focusing on those questions and getting back to the interventions [teachers] can put in place in their classrooms.”
Contracted times for teachers include normal school hours, 30 minutes before the first bell and 20 minutes after school. PLT meetings run from 20 to 45 minutes. Until this year, teachers were compensated for their extra time because PLT meetings were occurring outside of class. These were teacher work days, and students did not go to school.
“The district took that flex away from us this year,” Coil said. “Students still had the day off. We still had to meet and do work within the building as a faculty.”
The choice to move PLT meetings to regular block scheduling comes from the Response to Intervention (RTI) time. Teachers are members of multiple task forces, each researching his or her own topic with the overall goal to better the school.
This task force is made up of teachers who are assigned to research on topics such as RTI. The RTI task force recommended to the Executive Council the benefits of implementing an RTI structure here to better support students.
“We have made a collective decision as a building to implement a new RTI model after next year, so we first want to see the effects on the master schedule and scheduling when we get teachers common time before we try to implement an RTI model,” Jones said. “What we are really trying to do is make our interventions support what students need.”
The decision to trial RTI came earlier this semester. Unlike PLT, RTI will not be a block class. That much is certain. RTI is a philosophy of how to best support students, especially those struggling. The RTI structure consists of three tiers of help. The first tier is what every student has, much like how every freshman gets advisory. Both the second and third tiers help by having advisors assist students, sometimes sending them to study hall and tutoring rooms, Jones said.
“Tier one would be what every student gets, classroom instruction or whatever’s coming from counseling or whatever’s coming from the school as a whole,” Principal Dr. Jennifer Rukstad said. “Tier two would be something over and above what all students are getting. Tier three would be even more of that.”
Other schools in CPS have already implemented such methods building wide. Both Hickman High School (HHS) and Battle High School (BHS) have their own versions of the RTI model. BHS, for instance, has Spartan Time. All the students have a building-wide time built into the schedule where they group together in specific rooms and are given assistance on areas in school they struggle, if needed, Jones said.
If students throughout the year demonstrate they can maintain good grades, then they are allowed free time, though use of phones is prohibited, and they can go to specific areas of the building such as the cafeteria or media center.
Coil clarified that the RTI model RBHS will use is not the same as the models BHS and HHS use, but the way it is structured here isn’t certain, either.
“I think that’s [RTI Method] totally in the process. The team had the recommendations, based on a schedule that didn’t include common PLT time during the day,” Coil said. “Their recommendations really, logistically, don’t work with the new schedule that we’re going to have.”
Both Jones and Dr. Rukstad said RTI will not be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year as administration wishes to see how the changes made to the master schedule next year will work out. It is unknown when RTI will be fully implemented, Jones said. In addition to the PLT schedule changes, however, the periods offering advisory will also be reduced.
“Advisory will not run certain periods of the day because there won’t be freshman teachers available to be the advisory teachers,” Jones said. “So we’ll have the same number of advisories just over fewer blocks.”