Some parents are unhappy with parent-teacher conference scheduling in the Wellington Schools and say they’ve been unable to reserve a time for their child.
At the board of education’s March meeting, Mollie Diedrick said she has been unable to secure a time slot for her child at McCormick Middle School and was told by staff members that a conference wasn’t necessary.
“They told me conferences are for kids who need them,” she said. “I don’t think my child should be punished for doing well in class. This is the second time this year I’ve been told a conference wasn’t needed. I feel like having to fight to check on your kid is not acceptable, and there’s been a lot of talk about wanting to be better as a district.”
Superintendent Ed Weber said trouble with scheduling at McCormick has stemmed from a decision to move to a conference format where parents talk to all of their child’s teachers simultaneously.
Conferences at McCormick occur from 1-7 p.m. on three days throughout the school year. However, the latest round of conferences at McCormick, held March 27, were forced to end at 5 p.m. because of earlier sessions going over their allotted time, according to Weber.
Parents are instructed to make appointments during those time periods.
Teachers’ union contracts at McCormick and Westwood Elementary School allow for 14 hours and 20 minutes of evening assignments annually, which is how conference scheduling is classified.
“We actually added six hours of additional time for conferences at McCormick,” Weber said. “All of the schools have more time than they did last year, just laid out a bit differently.”
“At McCormick, parents are now meeting with a group of four or five teachers,” he said. “It takes five times the amount of time to get a session with one parent done.”
Diedrick told Weber and school board members that some of her child’s teachers offered to hold conferences during lunch periods and even in their own personal time.
“If parents miss conferences or some other conflict occurs, teachers have always offered to set up those kinds of meetings,” Weber said. “That could mean after school, before school, or during planning time the teacher has built into the school day. We would never tell a teacher to use their lunch time for that but if a teacher says, ‘Let’s meet at lunch,’ we’re not going to tell them no.”
Weber said neither he nor the board have told McCormick staff to put higher-achieving students on a lower priority for conference scheduling.
“A parent might have been told that by individual classroom teachers but they haven’t been told that by us,” he said. “I don’t think it would be wise of us to state we only want to have conferences for kids having trouble with grades or getting in trouble. It should be a first-come, first-served type of model. It should be for everybody.”
“Another model is just setting up conferences and everyone stays until the last parent leaves,” Weber said. “That’s not what we’re doing right now. Sometimes with our appointments, we’ll get a no-show and there are a group of teachers sitting in an empty room for an hour. Schedules can change quickly for either a teacher or a parent, a lot of dynamics at play.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.