Configuration options to go before parents and teachers2/26/09

Frameworks Committee offers 11 choices

Feb. 26, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

In its last meeting before next month’s teacher and community forums, the Williston Conceptual Frameworks Committee narrowed down the configuration proposals it will bring to the meetings. Now it’s up to parents, teachers and community members to weigh in.

After deciding on two building configurations the administration said were possible, the committee came up with six different configurations for grades one through four, and five options for grades five through eight. Teachers and community members will be able comment at the forums with opinions about their choice for the best configuration.

Both forums will take place on Monday, March 9. The teacher’s forum will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The community forum will follow, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The forums were originally scheduled for earlier this month, but were postponed in light of new information pertaining to building configurations.

Participants will also be able to give their opinions on the two building configurations. One option keeps the grades where they currently are — pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and grades one through four at Allen Brook School, and grades one though eight at Williston Central School. Another configuration would put all students from grades one through four at Allen Brook, and put pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and grades five through eight at Williston Central.

Much of the Frameworks Committee’s meeting on Thursday, Feb. 19, was spent discussing how the presentation should look for the forums, as well as debating the merits of certain grade grouping configurations.

“We’re getting to a point where we need to narrow some options down,” committee facilitator Mary Jane Shelley said at the meeting. “But the more things on the table, the harder it is to be able to cut back.”

Committee members engaged in an occasionally spirited debate on certain configurations, arguing for and against the options. Most of the proposed configurations have grades grouped differently than the current four-year house structure. Also, there are configuration options with different grades looping through houses with the same teacher or student group. Looping refers to an educator teaching students for more than one year.

For instance, some configuration options have two-year grade grouping structures, with transitions occurring after a two-year period. Also, these groups loop for two years with the same teachers. Other configurations focus only on different grade groupings or different looping options, such as single-grade or multi-age looping. Some configurations combine all the possibilities into one house, or “small learning communities” as the Frameworks Committee calls them.

The committee faced challenges when it came to developing upper house configurations, since some teachers are licensed to teach only fifth and sixth graders or only seventh and eighth graders. That forced the group to remove two configuration options that would have had unequal student numbers in the houses.

The presentation for the forums has already been designed by the committee with the help of member Kevin Mara, and is available on the school district’s Web site, The presentation explains all 11 configuration options, and has a key to understanding each option.

Shelley will give a one-hour presentation on the configuration options at the forums. The committee chose Shelley as the presenter since she is seen as a non-biased presence in the group. In the second hour of the forums, the public will be able to give feedback at stations set up under each configuration option. Members of the committee will record both positive and negative comments about each configuration.

Even with the postponement of the teacher and community forums, Shelley told the group they were on target to present recommendations on configuration to the School Board by April. Meetings about equity across the houses would occur afterward, with recommendations being presented by May or June, she said.

If the recommendations are approved, the changes could be implemented for next school year.