At the May 13, 2013 School Board meeting, Mary Hanson, Director of Teaching and Learning, and Superintendent Chris Richardson reviewed the Calendar Conversation process conducted in three sessions held in March and April. They provided information about the agenda, process and results of each meeting and copies of all the documents created as part of each evening’s small group activities with community participants and posted on the school calendar website. Dr. Richardson also shared the results of the Seven Calendar Concepts Online Straw Poll that was conducted between May 8th and May 13th. The straw poll asked participants to indicate which of the calendar options they felt merited more consideration. Straw poll results were posted on the website from approximately 475 participants.
Board Chair Ellen Iverson then led a discussion during which each Board member expressed their thoughts on what they learned from the Community Calendar Conversations and how they felt the Board should respond. Individual Board opinions ranged from maintaining the current calendar format for the foreseeable future to implementing a year round calendar with shorter breaks throughout the school year.
Based on the diverse perspectives shared during the discussion, the Board decided on a six to one vote to add a discussion item to the May 28th School Board meeting agenda. The purpose of the discussion item will be to develop the focus of and set a date for an early summer Board work session. At the work session, Board members will have an opportunity to reflect on issues related to student learning arising from the community calendar conversations.
At the April 30 community calendar meeting, participants identified the benefits and concerns of seven calendar concepts. At the end of the meeting, participants were asked to vote yes or no on each one (abstaining was also permitted), answering this question:
Does this calendar type have enough merit to move it forward for more consideration and "fleshing out" with specific detail and actual days?
Here are the results (PDF) of last week’s Calendar Conversation meeting where participants identified the benefits and concerns of seven calendar concepts. At the end of the meeting, participants were asked to vote yes or no on each one (abstaining was also permitted), answering this question:
Does this calendar type have enough merit to move it forward for more consideration and “fleshing out” with specific detail and actual days?
The third and final Northfield community school calendar discussion meeting drew between 30-40 people Tuesday night with the purpose of discussing seven different “skeleton calendars” and voting on which calendar options deserved further exploration.
The feedback and votes from the meeting will be considered by the Northfield Board of Education during their May meeting. The board will then direct the district on which calendar options have enough merit to move forward and be fleshed out with specific detail and actual dates, according to board chair Ellen Iverson.
The District held the final meeting of the Calendar Conversation project on Monday in the high school upper cafeteria. After Superintendent Chris Richardson gave an overview of the first two meetings, Director of Teaching and Learning Mary Hanson led participants through a process of identifying the benefits and concerns of seven calendar concepts, or “skeletal calendars” that represented the diversity of calendar ideas explored in the previous community meetings.
Participants then voted on which concepts had enough merit to move forward for further development with specific detail and actual days. The community feedback from this meeting will be provided to the school board at their May 13 meeting.
I’ll have another blog post with the results of this process up next. Photos and short video clip from the evening:
The April 24th 8 pm live video conference and live chat takes place here in this blog post. The follow-up blog comment thread will also be attached to this post, with the discussion open till April 30, the date of the next community meeting. See my blog post from earlier this week for more details.
We’ll be using Google+ Hangout Air for the video conference, embedded right here on the calendar conversation blog. If you’re unable to attend the live conference, I’ll have it archived here for you shortly after it’s over.
There are three ways for you to participate in this event:
We’ll be using an online text chat feature so that anyone can submit questions for the panel during the video conference.
You can submit questions for the panel ahead of time by either attaching a comment to this blog post, or by using the Contact Us form
After the panel is over, we’ll continue the discussion via blog comment thread up until the April 30 community meeting at the High School.
Got questions or suggestions? Attach a comment or contact me.
Listed below in one of nine descriptive categories is a listing of all of the key calendar elements developed at the first Calendar Conversation on March 7th that participants on April 2nd felt were aligned with that category.
Each participant was given 10 votes to cast. Participants could cast from one to all 10 of their votes on the concept or concepts they felt were most important to consider in the calendar discussion.
Some individuals put many of their votes on one concept while others spread their votes out over up to ten different concepts. The number in parentheses (#) following an item indicates the number of votes that one or more of the participants cast for each option.
The calendar concepts that were identified in each category as important to one or more people are listed first and will be considered when developing possible broad calendar options at the April 30th Calendar Conversation.
The District held the second community meeting for the Calendar Conversation project last week. Superintendent Chris Richardson opened the meeting with a review of research on the impact of instructional time on student learning, statutory calendar requirements and calendar-related employee contract language. See the PDF of his presentation or this Slideshare view:
Using a list of calendar components created at the first meeting, Director of Teaching and Learning Mary Hanson led participants in building a framework for the various calendar options. I’ll have another blog post with the results of that process up next. Photos from the evening:
Northfield Public Schools superintendent Chris Richardson presented information and research about the guidelines and restrictions on school calendars resulting from state statutes, legislation and teacher contracts, as well as the relationship between more instructional time and student performance…
Following Richardson’s presentation, attendees of the meeting split into small groups to review the school calendar ideas generated at the first calendar meeting and add any extras that people felt were missing…
Once the ideas were taped to the correct category’s designated page, all attendees were encouraged to do a “gallery walk” around the cafeteria to view all of the different categories and suggestions. After the gallery walk, each person was given ten dot stickers. They were instructed to use the stickers to indicate their priorities by sticking a dot on a school calendar idea or concept they felt was important — whether it meant ten stickers on one idea or one sticker on ten different ideas.
At the March 7 calendar conversation meeting, the audience was broken up into small groups with instructions to brainstorm a “list key components of a quality calendar best for student learning.” Representatives from each group then presented their group’s list to the large group.
One way to gather some information and get people engaged about an issue is to conduct a straw poll, an informal unscientific survey of those who ‘show up.’
One common type of straw poll is to ask for a show of hands at a face-to-face meeting, e.g.,
How many of you are happy with how the elections turned out? Who does NOT have a cell phone that’s set to mute? Who thinks the Twins will win the World Series this year?
As people in the room see each others hands go up and down, it sets the expectation that in a public setting, one is expected to ‘weigh in.’ It helps get people more engaged, rather than just being passive listeners. The activity gives the presenters a little information about their audience.
Online straw polls are similar but have some advantages: people can complete them anytime of the night or day; the polls can be more in-depth and people can take as much time as they need to fill them out; those reluctant to weigh publicly have a degree of anonymity; results are more easily compiled, etc.
I’m going to put up a straw poll at the end of this week and we’ll likely do one or more later in the project. I created a draft and Mary Hanson and Chris Richardson chimed in to improve it. So we’d now like you to please critique our efforts and make suggestions on what else should be included.
I took the photos below at last night’s calendar conversation meeting at the High School, the first of three. After School Board chair Ellen Iverson made some opening remarks, Director of Teaching and Learning Mary Hanson gave an overview of how the District is currently planning the process in the coming weeks and months. She emphasized that the three community meetings will each be different. See the timeline photo below.
We then broke up into small groups with instructions to brainstorm a “list key components of a quality calendar best for student learning.” Representatives from each group then presented their group’s list to the large group. Mary said that she’ll have the lists typed up (unedited) next week and we’ll post them here on the blog.
If you have feedback about this meeting, please attach a comment to this blog post or use the Contact Us page.
We’re planning to use a variety of online tools to supplement the face-to-face meetings to gather information and engage Northfield area citizens around the components of the Calendar Conversation project. In the works:
one or more straw polls
blog discussion threads
one or more webinars
Everything we plan to do, whether face-to-face or online, will be blogged here. And then we’ll blog about it after it’s over. The idea is to have ONE place where everything is ‘housed’ to make it as easy as possible for the citizenry to learn about the issue, participate, and refer back to what happened anytime.
While I prepare to make things more concrete, feel free to comment and ask questions by using the comment box below.
The Northfield Board of Education and district administration would like to invite parents, students and community members to participate in a broad discussion of the future of school calendars beyond 2013-14. The first calendar meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on March 7 in the high school upper cafeteria.
The meeting will include a review of the history and elements of academic calendars around the world and in the United States. Board and administration will gather ideas from attendees about calendar features that reflect the best for student learning. Discussion will include the level of involvement that meeting participants would like to have in upcoming months.
Additional calendar discussions have been scheduled for April 2 and April 30. Both meetings will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in the high school upper cafeteria.
I took these photos at the Jan. 14, 2013 Northfield Board of Education meeting. Superintendent Chris Richardson later wrote about the meeting that:
26 parents, students and community members spoke with concern about the proposed change to the school district calendar structure for 2013-14. The board voted unanimously to stop consideration of a more balanced calendar for the 2013-14 school year. They directed the administration to recommend a 2013-14 calendar in an upcoming meeting based on the traditional academic year with an after-Labor Day start.
Kathie Galotti: Griff, The comments here seem to echo those from the earlier straw poll. Although the process for gathering parental input wasn’t perfect and often happened at the last minute, I do think that anyone who cared about this...
Griff Wigley: Kurt and P: The results of the online straw poll are now posted at: http://nfld.k12.mn.us/calendar conversation/2013/05/online-st raw-poll-results-seven-calenda r-concepts/ Like any straw poll, it’s not a scientific survey,...
P. Robinson: I think parents have a right to have this information sooner rather than later. Perhaps someone with children in the system should handle these matters since parents/children in the system are the ones impacted the most by these...
kurt larson: Griff, We too are disappointed on the 4:30 pm e-mail. I believe many voices will now not be heard. I am going to suggest re-sending the poll, by the district contact list again. Even if is causes a delay with the presentation of...
Griff Wigley: Kelly, believe me, the District wanted as many people as possible to take the straw poll. It was my fault for the delay. I was supposed to get the straw poll up on Wed. morning, May 8, with the District email then scheduled to go out...
Chris Sullivan: Kathleen and Michelle, You have captured exactly my sentiments. I am not prepared to give up very real benefits to my children and our family for unclear benefits to students. I too would like to see across the board improvements...
Kathie Galotti: So, some further thoughts. As I read through all the comments, I hear very plaintive voices talking about how much family time, and summer evenings, and summer-only activities like 4-H and FFA mean to individuals. To lose those...
Nicki Linder: Interesting points made last night. Griff did a nice job as moderator. Is there a way to come up with a summer lesson plan on the ipads? I know it is only 6th grade and older but, it may be a way to help with summer slide in a cost...
Chris Richardson: Michelle – Thanks for listening in and becoming involved in this discussion. Our April 30th Calendar conversation at the High School Upper Cafeteria will ask participants to weigh in on 7 concept or “skeletal”...
Rob Hardy: Michelle: These things become kind of a blur, but I hope that’s what I was saying at some point last night. I think it’s true that the 174 days of the calendar can be arranged differently to shorten the summer vacation, but...
Griff Wigley: Kathie, I think your summary is fair. Again, my strategy with a straw poll is to primarily get people thinking about the issue, and not so much to gather input that would help direct policy-making. Plus, I think it helps some for...
Kathie Galotti: I’ve read through the comments and I’m not sure that they point us in a single direction. There’s a lot of anger in many, which doesn’t surprise me, given the poor process that initially occurred with the...
Griff Wigley: The straw poll is now closed. 358 responses. I’m hoping to have the results posted by tomorrow.
Griff Wigley: Nicki, here are two PDFs from Matt Hillman with more details on yesterday’s email from the District. Let me know if you have questions. Gmail screenshot Email report
Griff Wigley: Nicki, I think you probably got an email reply from Chris but I’m posting it here for the benefit of everyone. Thanks for taking the time to make the suggestion. Chris wrote yesterday via email: Dear Nicole, Schools send out...
Nicki Linder: Griff, could you send the link to the straw poll to the individual schools to send home in the weekly school newsletter? That would help you to get higher numbers filling out the poll. Lots of people don’t know about it. They...
Kathie Galotti: The statistical summaries you provided were interesting, Griff, but it’s the comments where I think the really useful info is. At least in terms of provoking thought/discussion.
D. Moore: The suggested changes to the calendar mess up all of our LIFE PLANS with our children during the summer. In case the school needs a reminder, LIFE PLANS are more important than scoring higher on some stupid test that nobody really cares...
Griff Wigley: Okay, duly noted! I’m not likely to be part of the summer group but for those who are, don’t hesitate to raise this concern.
Kathie Galotti: That would work. I just resist having a Northfield school district employee assigned to each subgroup to “manage” members and the discussion. Let the school district employees all work together if they want to.
Griff Wigley: Kathie, my apologies for the delay in replying to you. My impressions of the process at this early stage is that it’s designed to get people more informed through BOTH the presentation of info and then discussion. Once these...
Griff Wigley: Here’s the link to the results of the Northfield News school calendar straw poll.
Kathie Galotti: Griff, I can’t. I am dreading the April 2 presentation of “research evidence” as in the past, the administrators of the school district have cherry picked random studies to support their points of view–a...
Griff Wigley: We’ve gotten one response via our Contact Us form: I’d like to see you add an open-response item saying something along the lines of: What would an ideal calendar look like to you? What makes this ideal and why?