Frameworks members wade through details12/18/08

Dec. 18, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

In their last meeting of 2008, members of the Williston Conceptual Frameworks Committee spent two hours Tuesday night going over the fine details of a list of criteria they had previously compiled to evaluate configuration options.

Heading into the meeting, the idea was to take that criteria and determine which items impacted certain building configurations, of which five options are available. Instead, the committee spent the meeting intensely reviewing the top 10 list. Discussions centered on the merits of certain sentences and what definitions meant to different people.

Frameworks Committee Facilitator Mary Jane Shelley expressed regret that the group hadn’t worked out much of the debate before trying to move onto discussion about configurations of Allen Brook and Williston Central schools. She thought the group might have voted too early before there was clear understanding.

“We never vetted this fully enough as a group to know what some (items) mean,” she said.

The committee took the top 10 criteria from teacher and community forums, held a few weeks ago, to form their own top 10 criteria at a Dec. 4 meeting. The committee’s list mirrored much of the lists developed by community members and teachers.

More than 30 minutes were spent on the third item in the group’s top 10 list: “Fosters opportunities for flexible grouping and individualized, student-based learning. Flexible academic groupings meet individual student-differences. Allows for grouping students by ability levels within a grade for specific budget areas.”

Group members argued for and against splitting the criteria item into two different subjects. Some people felt the first and second sentence were two totally different subjects and should be treated as such. Others thought they went hand in hand in allowing different grade groupings, from single grades to multi-age classrooms.

Toward the end of the meeting, committee members voted not to split the item into two different subjects. Doing so would have changed the top 10 and bumped an important item off the list.

Also discussed at length were the differences of two criteria items dealing directly with transitions between grades, houses and schools. Committee members seemed split on the meanings, as well as what exactly constitutes too many transitions.

“Having these in the top 10 is a real point of difference that we’ll have to have discussions about,” group member Charlie Magill said.

In the end, after voting to re-word certain items for clarity, it was decided committee members would help create, via e-mail, two lists of criteria. One of the lists would essentially be a re-vote of the original top 10, now that there was further discussion and greater understanding, Shelley said. The second list would cull from the first to determine which items are most important in determining how building layout would support academics.

“Let’s determine which criteria we’ll look at for building (configuration) and which criteria we’ll look at when we pull the whole thing together,” Shelley said.

At the next meeting, the committee plans to look closely at each building configuration and determine which of the five designs best fits the second top 10 list.

Some committee members stressed the importance of this decision, since some services are offered at one school and not the other, thus skewing equity among houses and students. Shelley said once the building design was determined, work on house structures and age grouping would be discussed in depth.

Configuration options

The first option, Option A, would put students from pre-kindergarten through second grade at Allen Brook School, with grades three through eight at Williston Central School. A language math lab, special project room or special education space would have to be eliminated at Williston Central to fit the first configuration option.

Option B would have kindergarten through third grade at Allen Brook, with pre-kindergarten and grades four through eight at Williston Central.

Option C would put grades one through four at Allen Brook and pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, along with grades five through eight, at Williston Central. Allen Brook would have to convert into classrooms two rooms currently used for other purposes — choosing from a computer lab, art room, music room or support staff office.

The fourth option, Option D, would keep the current building setup, but with different grade span configurations and age groupings.

Another option would be to keep everything the way it is and focus on how to improve house equity. The committee will determine which building configuration best serves the criteria points of teachers, community members and the frameworks group.

The Frameworks Committee will reconvene on Thursday, Jan. 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Williston Central School. A second community forum, which had been scheduled for early January, is being postponed until a later date.