EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 30, 2008

Lack of teacher support threatens longer school days, committee member says

HAVERHILL - If the city is to have longer academic days at two middle schools, Haverhill must persuade more teachers to support the plan, School Committee member Scott Wood said.

Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan said Haverhill hopes to receive state approval for the longer days starting with the 2009-2010 school year. Proponents of the longer day, designed to give students extra time with core subjects like math and English, as well as more activities like art and music, said it will work if teachers support it.

But Wood said he understands many teachers at one of the schools, Consentino Middle School, oppose a longer day.

"I think the problem is that the superintendent is driving this idea, and that he isn't involving enough people at the two schools that are considering it," Wood said of Consentino and Whittier Middle School. "To be going forward with something this drastic without involving everyone isn't smart."

Consentino submitted a proposal to the state for longer days starting in September 2009, but that plan has been rejected by state education officials. Wood said there are only a few staff members at Whittier developing its longer-day proposal, and that he expects the result there will be the same as at Consentino unless the review is broadened to include many more teachers and parents, as well as secretaries and custodians who would be affected.

J.C. Considine, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said the district's application was missing detailed information about how Consentino would provide for a longer day.

"They told us they want more time for more English and math, but they didn't provide specific information on how they were going to pay for it or staff it," Considine said. "We have encouraged them to submit a new application for the 2009 school year."

A letter from the Department of Education to Buchanan reads, in part, "Our review has determined that the plan does not meet the criteria for approval and will therefore not be eligible for state funding in Fiscal Year 2009," which includes the 2008-2009 school year.

The letter said Haverhill has two options for Consentino: submit a new proposal by July 31 for the school year that starts in September 2009; or apply for a new planning grant that would position the school to begin a longer day in September 2010.

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