Nearly three-dozen San Ramon Valley teachers and parents turned out Tuesday night to express their concerns about proposals to discontinue a pair of elementary school programs.
The Board of Education did not make a final decision on the fate of extended-day kindergarten or first-grade slip-reading following the two-hour discussion in Danville, and there is no immediate timetable for when the issues would be brought back to the board for final consideration.
The elimination of both programs at the start of next school year, as recommended by school-district staff, would create continuity across all campuses, as each is currently in place at some schools and not at others.
The core arguments in favor of each staff proposal differ, with one being presented as a facilities issue and the other on the basis of establishing consistent instructional schedules.
Extended-day kindergarten, currently in place at four of the district's 21 elementary schools, provides at extra 45 to 60 minutes of instructional time for students.
One issue, according to district officials, is that the program allows only one kindergarten class per classroom whereas a morning/afternoon (a.m./p.m.) schedule lets two classes share one room throughout the day.
And the district may soon have a need for that space as it prepares to address projected population increases and mandated class-size reductions, leading to staff's recommendation to have all schools implement a.m./p.m. kindergarten schedules
"I see the tremendous struggle with growth that we are facing, not just right now but for the foreseeable future," said board vice president Denise Jennison. "I think we have to rely on the numbers that have been given to us that tell us what we're facing with our facilities in this district and act proactively."
Susie Stagnaro, from Greenbrook Elementary in Danville, was among the kindergarten teachers to criticize the proposed elimination of extended-day scheduling.
"When I heard we were going to a.m./p.m., I said, 'Is that a joke?' I couldn't believe it," she told the board. "Who is deciding this? I don't think it's people who care about 5- and 6-year-olds."
All board members said they were torn about the prospect of having to cut extended kindergarten in the face of existing and projected facility issues.
"Taking instructional minutes away from the grade level that needs to have frankly the most preparation is probably the wrong move on our part, if we can pull it off," board clerk Greg Marvel said.
The conversation about stopping the slip-reading program was framed more around the need for instructional equity at all schools.
More than two-thirds of the elementary campuses have first-grade slip-reading, which allows students 45 to 50 minutes of reading and learning in a smaller group setting in exchange for spending 45 to 50 fewer minutes in full class instruction, according to district officials.
Elizabeth Howell, first-grade teacher at Neil Armstrong Elementary in San Ramon, said she supported removing slip-reading in favor of regaining instructional time with the entire class.
"A full day gives us more time to implement the Common Core goals with fidelity -- of in-depth projects, group work and some of things we want to take them to," she told the board. "And we want to have a less choppy day with the ability to develop a stronger learning community."
Four other teachers disagreed with Howell and spoke out against the recommendation.
Cathy Rubin said she and her first-grade colleagues at Hidden Hills Elementary in San Ramon are "totally in favor of slip-reading, and we believe that that is how we have achieved what we have achieved (with high student performance)."
Additionally, some instructors objected to the timing of the proposal coming to the board.
District officials said they were in the process of developing a committee of teachers and staff to debate eliminating slip-reading, but the discussion group had not met before Tuesday's meeting.
"I'm sorry that this rolled out the way that it did," Jennison told the concerned teachers. "The bottom line is the committee has not had an opportunity to do its work."
Board members did not take a vote on the extended kindergarten or slip-reading, as each was listed as a discussion-only item on the meeting agenda.
The debates didn't start until roughly two hours into Tuesday's nighttime meeting -- scheduling that drew the ire of some attendees while they waited for the items to be called.
"Thank you for respecting our time," one woman muttered sarcastically from the audience as board members discussed other issues listed earlier on the meeting agenda.
Those additional matters included a decision to postpone its discussion on whether to terminate English teacher Mark Glassberg, who was hired in August as temporary full-time employee at California High in San Ramon.
Glassberg, who is on paid administrative leave, contended that district staff recommended his dismissal in the wake of an incident in which he made "physical contact" with a reportedly disruptive student. SRVUSD spokesman Terry Koehne declined to comment about the circumstances leading to Glassberg being taken out of the classroom.
Glassberg and his attorneys urged board members Tuesday to delay decision-making until they became more familiar with the facts of the case.
"By saying that we're going to gather more information does not guarantee an outcome one way or the other, but simply that we â€¦ are requesting some additional information on the matter," Jennison said.
Staff's recommendation to release Glassberg was listed among more than four-dozen employment changes under board consideration. All other personnel moves were approved unanimously.
The board also reviewed potential updates and changes to its policies and administrative regulations covering revolving funds and school-sponsored trips. The revisions were discussion-only topics, with final consideration expected Feb. 25.
Following up on their Jan. 28 meeting, board members approved changes to policies and regulations pertaining to nondiscrimination in district programs and activities, tobacco-free schools and equal opportunity during the hiring process.
The board also heard a presentation on district programs for English-language learners, appointed board member Mark Jewett as an alternate on the TRAFFIX board and approved resolutions in support of March as Women's History Month and Arts Education Month.