After a majority of teachers at Mt. Diablo High voted No Confidence in Principal Kate McClatchy last month, the district responded by allowing teachers to express their concerns in small groups at the school.
Teacher Dan Reynolds, a teacher’s union rep for the site, said district administrators compiled these concerns into five major areas: leadership, facilities, discipline, professional development and McClatchy’s proposed plan to convert the school to an “all academy” model, which would require every student to choose one of four areas of intense study.
The academies expected to be “scaled up” are the Architecture, Construction, Manufacturing and Engineering academy; Digital Safari Multimedia and Computer science academy; International Hospitality and Tourism Academy; and Medical Bio-Technology Academy.
Teachers broke into groups Monday and listened to administrators present draft plans regarding the areas of concern, then gave feedback, Reynolds said.
“On the whole, many of us came away feeling like it was shallow and they already had a plan and they were showing us a piece of it and they weren’t relay listening,” he said. “The reason is that they take people’s suggestions and then say, ‘We will come back to you when we make a decision about what’s going to happen. Students, parents and teachers haven’t really been involved in the decision-making.”
Reynolds said McClatchy presented a plan regarding the all-academy model on Wednesday and asked teachers to vote on one of two options: convert to an all-academy school in 2012-13 or in 2013-14.
“Those were the only two choices,” Reynolds said. “It was like saying, ‘You can have any flavor of ice cream you want as long as it’s chocolate or vanilla.’”
But teachers refused to accept those narrow options and didn’t vote, he said. Some teachers will likely speak about their concerns at next Monday’s board meeting, he added.
“We are looking at next steps,” he said. “Its important for parents to be involved in our decisions as we move forward.”
I spoke to Pat Ainsworth, assistant superintendent for secondary education in the California Department of Education, about the all-academy model last week. He said academies nationwide have been proven to raise test scores and student engagement, but pointed out that schools have other options.
“The teachers that are typically in these academies throughout the state have opted into them,” he said.
Since academies require groups of students to take several courses together around a theme, they have fewer options for other courses, he said.
“That may put some pressure on the master schedule,” he said. “We do know there are schools that are using or have gone to a career-themed pathways, that may not be academies.”
An academy, he said, is a school within a school. Groups of students are assigned to specific teachers and they move through their courses in a very sequenced way from 10th through 12th grade, he said.
“A career pathway model may not be as rigid,” he said. “A school may have four or five pathways.”
In this model, students could opt to take courses in a variety of career areas, instead of just one. This would allow students to create individualized programs, Ainsworth said.
Do you agree with the school’s plan to convert to an all-academy model?