Education, Local News

H-F board reorganizes department chair positions, creates specialist job

The District 233 school board voted to change the role of its department chairs, and create a new curriculum and instruction specialist position.

Department chairs are the lead person in each department who works with faculty on curriculum and staffing issues, as well as maintaining a teaching role for a class or two. Under changes adopted at the March 19 board meeting, the school board voted to approve a recommendation from Principal Clinton Alexander to reclassify the position with a new title, department lead, and remove the person’s teaching responsibilities. 

The change also moves the current department chairs from the teacher’s contract. They will be on a 225-day contract renewable each year. The new role will start at the beginning of August and go through June 30.

The switch is meant to give the department lead additional time as District 233 develops a standards-based learning curriculum. 

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According to Jen Hester, director of curriculum and instruction, “Standards-based learning is focused on clearly defined learning goals or standards that provide a clear picture of what students are expected to know and be able to do, personalized support to help them succeed, and a focus on mastering essential skills and knowledge.”

Alexander said, “We were looking at things that we had to do futuristically with standards-based learning” with curriculum design and maintaining the quality of instruction. “We’re always looking for more time and how can we get time back to really be efficient in developing that curriculum and reinforce Tier 1 (classroom) instruction. That was one creative way we can do that.”

Alexander said the intention is to shift the position from a managerial position to a leadership position. He told board members, “we feel we can really bring out the best” in the department leads with the reorganized role.

Department chairs who accept the change will get a $10,000 additional payment into their Teachers Retirement System account to cover the extra 30 days of work tacked on to their contracts, and a $3,000 salary bump, Alexander said. 

He believes all the current department chairs will accept the change. If not, the principal said “there’s internal talent” that will take on the positions.

There are 12 department chairs and 10 of them have teaching responsibilities. Alexander said he believes other teachers will agree to teach an extra class that previously was taught by the department chair. That switch will mean an additional cost in teacher salaries.

Board member Nathan Legardy raised questions about how these new positions with their $130,000-plus price tag will affect the district’s budget. Superintendent Scott Wakeley assured him that the district’s budget is in the black and can absorb the expenses.

Hester said the curriculum and instructional specialist position is “someone who works at that strategic and practical level to help us manage the scope of all of the work.” 

It is a newly created position. She expects the person in the role will come from H-F’s teaching ranks and will be paid according to the union contract. The specialist will still teach one class. The person will assist Hester and Associate Principal Shannon Swilley in their work on the standards-based learning project. 

Hester said, “The role is to support in what we would call program management to help develop the moving pieces,” including the work being done with department chairs, teacher leadership and subject area curriculum chairs and managing the paperwork and reports.

The English, Math, and Science departments are in the process of developing standards-based systems with standards-based proficiency scales and aligned assessments forming the basis of curriculum and instruction, Hester said. World Language, Physical Education and Health, Fine Arts and Social Science will engage in deep learning and begin standards-based learning work next school year.

Again, questions were raised on how this position will fit into the budget. Hester said she sees the position as similar to teachers being released from classroom responsibilities to take on other tasks. She expects other teachers will teach the courses the specialist no longer has.

Board member Pam Jackson said she didn’t disagree with the position, but suggested the full board should have a discussion on the changes and the financial implications.

“We are going through a lot of change, and there are a number of things that are coming up,” she said, when asking for a Committee of the Whole meeting.

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