MODESTO — The Sylvan Union School District will try early-day Wednesdays next year to give teachers time to collaborate, board members ruled.
The vote Tuesday night was 3-1 to cut the school day by an hour midweek and extend it 15 minutes on the other four days. Board President Cynthia Lindsey was absent.
Board member Jennifer Miyakawa cast the dissenting vote after making an impassioned case for spending $680,000 to hire art and music teachers to give teachers time to meet without upending the schedule.
Miyakawa said she knew parents who had opted out of Sylvan schools to find programs with stronger arts instruction, and believed money recently found in the budget would be best spent there.
Trustee George Rawe, however, said the budget was too uncertain to commit to such a large expense, countering that the extra funding still could be used to bring back art and music.
The district plans to offer low-cost child care during that Wednesday hour.
Board member Terriann Zeek said she wants to see art and music return, along with other things the district has cut. "I have to tell you, this is so hard because everything we cut is so important," she said.
Money that could be used to undo past cuts is up for discussion. Superintendent John Halverson said the district believes it will have $925,000 available for the board to spend.
Members will have an online survey with 18 options, with prices, to prioritize. Halverson said he would bring back survey results for board decisions at a future meeting.
In other action, trustees voted unanimously to hire head of human resources Debra Hendricks as superintendent, effective July 1, and accepted Halverson's retirement, effective June 30.
Hendricks' two-year contract specifies her salary will be $165,000, with a $300 per month car allowance.
The board also heard an update on a districtwide emergency call system that's going into place. Next week, parents will be sent information on the system and instructions for an online parent portal.
The system first will ask families to update emergency contact information, Halverson said. Those contacts will be put to the test with a trial run in mid-May, sending a test alert to parents, he said.
Also Tuesday, the board honored support staff with a proclamation of Classified School Employees Week on May 19-25, then, in a touch of irony, ruled that would be the last working week for nine classroom aides.
The vote was unanimous to end nine positions the district believes will not be needed next year. Those jobs will formally end June 30, with the last day of classes May 24.
The board also voted unanimously to formally end the jobs of 38 temporary teachers paid by special funds. All received pink slips by March 15.
But while those programs may end, the hiring picture is looking up for other teacher positions. Hendricks said the district will be hiring at least 19, giving many a chance to return.
Hendricks also introduced eight instructional coaches hired to help teachers make the switch to Common Core standards. "If you really want people to learn new things, research shows there's nothing as effective as a coach," she said.