Kendal A. Montgomery, principal •
W. J. Clinton Primary • Hope, Arkansas
Scheduling Nightmare with the Largest K-4 School in Arkansas
Greetings from Hope, Arkansas—home of President Bill Clinton, former Governor and Fox Contributor Mike Huckabee, the World’s Largest Watermelon and home to the state’s largest K-4 school (1042 and counting)! Scheduling at W. J. Clinton Primary has traditionally been a nightmare. This year we have 13 Kindergarten classes, 12 first grade, 10 second grade, 10 third grade and 8 fourth grade classrooms with enrollment actually down by about 20.
Last year, in my first year as principal, we were able to schedule 40 minutes of collaboration time for each grade level once a week starting at 8:00 am. It worked well, but the students were sent outside for extra physical activity time ~ not the activity we wanted for our students but it worked. We were not able to schedule common planning time last year but made that our focus when planning the master schedule this year. Our vision for this year was:
Collaboration time in the morning
Something more academic or enriching for our students during collaboration time
Common planning time for our teachers.
I am blessed to have two assistant principals who are great at scheduling and gave the challenge to them after attending the PLC conference in Las Vegas. They searched AllThingsPLC.info for a school similar to ours as far as size so we could steal/borrow their schedule but were not able to find one. The problem we have faced in the past is that when lunch comes around….all activity periods stop because the activity personnel were also the duty personnel for our three (3) lunch periods. We realized we were creating our schedule around lunch and not around instruction.
With that simple change in thought, we now have a 40 minute per week collaboration time and a 50 minute common planning time for our K-4 teachers. During collaboration time our students now go to special classes such as art, music, library etc. with those teachers and have enrichment classes. We also asked our teachers to help with lunch duty and placed a 20 minute recess right after lunch. By double blocking lunch and recess, teachers could spend time on duty and have their 30 minutes of duty free lunch during recess. Because of this simple change in thought, our activity periods continue throughout the day and we have been able to accomplish our goals for collaboration and common planning time.
I never thought this was possible with a school our size….but if we can do it at Clinton Primary with 1042 students and 53 classrooms—anyone can! Next year’s goal is to use the collaboration time as an intervention time and an enrichment time.
The PLC journey is a journey that takes time, commitment to student and patience for change—oh, and two assistant principals who are great at scheduling! We aren’t a true PLC yet but we are on the right road!