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Block Scheduling defended at BOE meeting

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Staff Writer
A teacher who said she represented the majority of the faculty and students at Flomaton High School addressed the Escambia County Board of Education to defend the block system during a meeting this week.
The board heard a report during its previous meeting regarding the schools' status as it relates to the block system of scheduling. The block system has been used for about four years. The board is considering changing the school schedules to a seven-period day or a modified block system.
Teresa Hultz, a Flomaton High School teacher, said the block schedule has worked at Flomaton and that many of the problems that existed within the system have nothing to do with block scheduling.
Among the items brought before the board as a negative aspect of block scheduling was that long classes tended to diminish students' attention spans. Hultz said teachers must learn to adapt to the longer class periods.
She also defended the block in that students with lower academic success have time to take vocational classes.
Hultz also said that block scheduling is not the likely reason for higher dropout rates.
Teachers took a poll last year and, according to Hultz, the results were overwhelming for block scheduling which stands in contrast to Supervisor of Secondary Curriculum Renee Wilkins report to the board. She said the results were very close – 46 percent choosing seven-period days, 44 percent liking the block system and 7 percent voting for the modified block.
Hultz also said Flomaton High School has flourished under the block system in relation to the ACT test. She said Flomaton was at or above the national average in all categories except reading.
She also questioned changing schedule systems during a time when the schools are struggling financially.
She said block scheduling can work at all of the schools if an effort is made by the administrations of the schools.
BOE Chairman Mike Goolsby said the decision will be made with the best intentions for the students.
Boardmember Richard Hawthorne said despite the decision that must be made by the board, the debate has brought other problems to the attention of the board.
In a related matter, a committee made up of teachers was sent to Crestview High School to learn more about the modified block system of scheduling.
Gwen Walton reported that committee's findings to the board.
She said the modified block was set up so students would take a total of six classes over the two days and then a seventh class every day – students take three classes every other day with longer periods and then a shorter class everyday. Teachers have a planning period every other day.
She said the modified block system may not work in Escambia County due to the smaller number of teachers at each school.
She said the modified block system is popular at Crestview High School.
Another downfall for modified block is that students will not have break times during the day. Walton said that would affect the schools that are dependent on vending machine revenues for supplies.
Other action taken by the board included:
revising the school board's policy on compensation in times of emergency.
Superintendent Buck Powell said the policy needed to be changed so that personnel could contact their immediate supervisors in times of emergencies. As it read, the superintendent was the only person that could approve spending for an emergency. He said principals need to be able to contact others, such as the maintenance supervisor, if a situation arises and he could not be contacted.
The board approved the revision unanimously;
Boardmember Willie Grissett's report on attending the Alabama Association of School Boards' 2001 Convention and Delegate Assembly. Grissett attended the assembly from Dec. 6 – 8. He gave a full report to the other board members and said the meeting was very beneficial;
accepting a bid for a special needs school bus. The board voted unanimously to accept a bid for $59,293 from Thomas Bus of Alabama;
accepting a bid for a school bus. The board voted unanimously to purchase a school bus from Thomas Bus of Alabama at a bid of $47,403 and
accepting a bid for air conditioning and heating renovations at Flomaton Elementary School. The board voted at the previous meeting to make the renovations an emergency which allowed the school to move quickly through the bidding process.
The board approved to allow Coley Air Conditioning, Inc. to do the renovations at the Elementary School.
The board also approved the following personnel changes:
Resignation – James C. Odom, welding instructor at the Escambia/Brewton Career Technical Center and Robert J. Salley, ROTC instructor, ECHS.
Retirement – Virdell Nelson, custodian at W.S. Neal High School and Patricia P. Barrentine, bus driver.
Employment – Monica Buckhault, lunchroom worker, ECHS.
Temporary employment – Martha Simmons, custodian, W.S. Neal Middle School, effective Jan. 7 through Feb. 1.