Higley USD board hears update on high schools’ late start Wednesdays

Higley USD, Higley USD governing board
The Higley USD governing board conducts business Dec. 4. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Higley USD governing board conducts business Dec. 4. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Higley USD’s high schools plan to gather more feedback and refine the district’s pilot program for late start Wednesdays that create some professional development for faculty, officials told the governing board Dec. 4.

The late starts move the first hour back from a 7:25 a.m. to 7:40 a.m. The time has been used for beginning-of-the-year mandatory trainings; staff meetings that include team building, celebrations and a review of upcoming events; site-specific development topics; professional learning community time with department and instructional coaches; timely data conversations and common assessments; and ongoing collaborative curriculum work.

Dawn Foley, the district’s assistant superintendent of K-12 educational services, said the district has found it important that the time allotment is consistent and the time is intentional and targeted in its usage because of the short time involved.

Transportation is unaffected by the schedule, so students who are bused arrive on campus with spare time before their first class. Superintendent Mike Thomason said going into the program, the lack of supervision for that period was a concern to him, but Higley High School Principal Alan Fields and Williams Field High School Principal Steve Tannenbaum said it has not been an issue.

Students have used the time for events, club meetings, peer tutoring, study hall, or attending college and career opportunities provided by counselors, the principals said.

In response to a question from board member Jill Wilson, Fields said tardiness is down slightly on Wednesdays.

According to a survey that received 50 responses, 25 respondents find the time devoted to these meetings is just about right, while 22 found it to be too little. The survey also found 26 of 50 find the meetings very or somewhat productive, with another nine saying it was neither productive nor unproductive.

Foley said the district hopes future refinements address the mixed responses.

Tannenbaum said he appreciated the district letting the high schools try the program.

Sherry Richards, executive director of elementary curriculum, also presented about the elementary schools, which are using a calendar of early releases for site-based professional development. Richards said she is proud principals are being intentional in using the sessions for professional development and not just conducting school business.

Governing board Vice President Amy Kaylor said that as a parent, the differing calendars of early releases among the elementary, middle and high schools is “messy” and needs to be cleaned up. Wilson agreed with her.

Other business

  • In another work-study session, Human Resources Executive Director Mum Martens recommended that administrative salaries for the district range at the 45th to 50th percentile among neighboring and like-sized districts. The salary structure throughout the district will be under review this spring in the wake of an eight-district salary study that HUSD was part of.

  • The consent agenda, which passed on a 5-0 vote, included approval of an intergovernmental agreement between the district and Chandler Gilbert Community College to provide an embedded counselor from CGCC to students in dual enrollment with the community college. Also included was approval of Dec. 23 as the effective date for a new support staff wage schedule.

  • The board approved on 5-0 votes high school and middle school course guides for the coming year.

By Tom Blodgett

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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