MMSD Teacher on REACH

Spring Harbor Teacher Nan Yungerman:

At the MUAE forum to discuss education for gifted and talented students, it was disturbing to hear one candidate, Maya Cole for Seat #5, talk about eliminating REACH as a way to trade money to keep Eastside schools open. I was bothered on many levels.
One; REACH was developed to provide one additional and desperately needed hour of planning time for elementary teachers. It is in this hour that teachers might differentiate curriculum or do hundreds of other necessary tasks to keep their classrooms going. This precious hour, one of about a total of five permitted during the work week, is a negotiated term or part of the Teacher Bargaining Agreement. Maya Cole is suggesting it be eliminated. If this were possible, simply by saying it —- is not a friendly gesture to teachers. This will not save money. A different method of providing for children during the negotiated hour of planning time would need to be developed. Claiming to know what would help teachers and then suggesting to take away their planning time is down right nasty. Elementary planning time is beyond necessary for teacher sanity and is is the very basic component of being a thoughtful and reflective teacher!

I’ve heard some alt views on this from other teachers (and parents).

6 thoughts on “MMSD Teacher on REACH”

  1. I looked at the tape. I believe Maya said “look at” and definitely “did not say eliminate” REACH nor would she go forward with an idea like this without further discussions with teachers and parents, at a minimum.
    FYI – in his recommendation to the School Board, Superintendent Rainwater recommended increasing class sizes for Specials and REACH classes – “Increase class sizes in art, music, physical education, and Reach in K1 (by combining a class and a half) for all schools receiving SAGE above 29% and increase class sizes in art, music, physical education, and Reach in grades 2-3 (by combining a class and a half) for those schools receiving SAGE in K-3 all day” (Source: MMSD Superintendent’s Proposed Budget Changes – March 9, 2007, Item C-1). Savings estimate for this option forecasted to be: $860,548.
    Re Referendum Discussion:
    Monday, March 26th, the MMSD School Board will hold a 5 p.m. meeting at Memorial High School,
    7. Proposal to hold a referendum for the purpose of increasing the revenue limits for the MMSD by $6 million for the 2007-08 fiscal year, with an additional $5 million increase for the 2008-09 fiscal year and a third additional $6 million increase for the 2009-10 fiscal year
    8. Referendum for the purpose of Covering the Costs of Budget Cuts related to the MMSD 2007-08 Proposed Budget

  2. I think this may be a clearcut example of one of the more interesting questions that came up at the forum on Thursday night. The candidates were asked to speak to the issue of where they see the greatest tension, even conflict, between MTI’s responsibility to meet the needs of our teachers and the District’s responsibility to meet the needs of our students. It’s an issue of competing needs that we rarely name, much less talk about.
    Ms. Youngerman makes it clear here (as she did in an email she wrote directly to me after the forum) that REACH’s primary purpose was to meet a need of teachers. Good intentions about enriching our children’s educational experience by fostering creativity, curiosity, and so forth — which even Ms. Youngerman admitted to me have largely fallen by the wayside (readers, what does REACH consist of in your school these days?) — were clearly a secondary consideration. Thus Maya may be on to something when she suggests we explore more cost effective ways to give our teachers the planning time they need. If REACH is no longer providing anything of significant value to our children’s education — if, as Ms. Youngerman told me, “many [of the] key aspects of REACH have been lost” — then maybe it WOULD be economically wise to eliminate it.
    I think we have to disentangle the issue of REACH, its effectiveness and expense from that of teacher planning time. If Ms. Youngerman’s intention had not been primarily a political one — i.e., to bash candidate Cole by trying to make her out as anti-teacher (the opposition’s unfounded and misguided strategy, for those of you who haven’t yet figured that out) — I would like to think that she, too, would have been able to see that.

  3. For those of us in the East attendance area who would like the Board to consider other budget cut options in lieu of the school consolidation (closing) plans, looking at the REACH allocation seems like a reasonable thing to do. According to the budget document that was presented on March 9th, the reduction of the elementary REACH allocations can save $1.4 mil (which is a lot more than the projected savings of the consolidation plans). This was one of the items that ended up on the “Reductions analyzed, Discussed, Not included” list. According to the document “MMSD can eliminate REACH from its elementary offerings without violating the CBA.” Without knowing more about the impact, I can’t say if this would be a good course to pursue or not, but I’d like it to at least be considered. Closing a building has a huge disruptive impact on students, families, teachers and the general community. If the Board intends to go to referendum next year, then it makes sense for them to put the school consolidation plans on hold this year and consider budget cut items that can be more easily reversed if a referendum does pass. I agree with Maya on this one.

  4. I had forgotten about the original intention of REACH to give teachers planning time. From the perspective of my children and mine, as well, REACH is a valuable class. It is crucial that our children learn computer skills. It has been suggested that these skills can be taught in the regular classroom. I can’t imagine the classroom teachers being willing or finding the time to learn the skills they would need in order to teach REACH. My daugther’s favorite day of the week is when she has REACH. It is one of the few times she feels that she is actually learning something. In her case, she is right. I don’t pretend to know what REACH is like across the District. At our school, it is invaluable. If it gives teachers the planning time they need and provides our students with the technology skills they need, it’s a benefit to all and I hope it can be saved from the chopping block!

  5. Discussion Item CN-2 proposes eliminating REACH to save $1,477,651. This savings comes through the elimination of 26.1 FTE’s. The proposed cut says nothing about eliminating teacher planning time, and in fact, even notes that planning time is part of the CBA.

  6. As an outsider coming into this district I was amazed by the REACH program. It is different at every school and at ours it is a computer class. I see no grade, no product, nor does my child discuss this class.
    The teachers at Madison have Monday afternoons off, they are not required as they were at my two previous schools to serve at lunch rooms or playgrounds, they have music, PE, library, and Art time without students every week. I am amazed this time is worth the cost. Many of my children’s teachers have offered computer time and ways to investigate the internet. As I understand it some schools use this time for deeper Science instruction. I’d be up for dropping REACH adding five minutes to lunch and recess and the rest to the three R’s that the teachers frequently complain they don’t have enough time to cover as thoroughly as they would like as they have to move the students to various special.

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