By Casey Hans
Plans for a new K-8 partnership between Mitchell Elementary, Scarlett Middle School and the University of Michigan School of Education are moving ahead, with a number of community committees meeting and staff activities leading up to the change that will take place this fall.
“All of us are very committed to doing it,” said Kathy Scarnecchia, who recently moved into the post of interim administrative liaison for the partnership from her role as principal at Mitchell. “The ideas are flowing like a fountain.”
A balanced calendar option originally proposed the fall will not be implemented for the 2011-12 year. It was tabled for further study and is still being looked at for the future. A recently completed parent survey about the balanced calendar is also being studied and will be reported out in the coming weeks.
The partnership does not yet have a name, but the communities will be part of selecting that, she said.
Scarnecchia said planning for the K-8 campus is going well. Principals at both schools have met both in groups and one-on-one with teachers to discuss the upcoming change and to determine who is interested in being part of the new campus. “The staff has a good sense of what is happening,” she said.
“We really, really want to have a (K-8) culture – the same experience for children whatever their age,” she added.
Scarnecchia and Scarlett Principal Gerald Vazquez presented an update to the Board of Education Planning Committee on Thursday, March 24, and are on the agenda this week to present to the board’s Performance Committee.
During this school year, five Mitchell-Scarlett partnership projects have been undertaken between the AAPS staff and members of the U-M School of Education (both staff and interns) including: the Mitchell Mighty Mustangs math project, an ESL literacy professional development, a middle school math assessment and a “managing to teach” unit. U-M has also conducted professional development days on the topic of mentoring at both Mitchell and Scarlett this winter.
Other projects being pursued between U-M interns and AAPS staff include a literacy partnership at Scarlett, a Mitchell Mighty Mustangs Art & Literacy after-school initiative and a Scarlett Middle School Summer ESL and Content Enrichment program that will be conducted in July.
Being planned for the 2011-12 school year are pilot enrichments during school breaks, called inter-sessions, that may be offered to families as early as August, Scarnecchia said. These will give parents a flavor of what types of activities the inter-sessions can offer, she added.
The partnership’s organizing committee surveyed parents Mitchell and Scarlett and at Scarlett’s feeder elementary schools this month to determine public opinion about the balanced calendar option – that would possibly extend the school year.
Those survey results are in, are being analyzed and will be brought back to the school board at a future meeting, Vazquez and Scarnecchia said.
In the online survey which took feedback through March 18, parents were asked a variety of questions, including: the advantages and disadvantages of such a calendar; whether current Mitchell and Scarlett parents would continue to attend school there under a balanced calendar; whether Carpenter, Allen and Pittsfield parents would enroll at Scarlett under a balanced calendar; and their preferences involving an “opt out” choice. The survey also asked whether parents and families would take advantage of inter-sessions during school breaks.
Scarnecchia said the team still considers the balanced calendar important, but that they are committed to beginning the process this fall without it. “It was always the intention to pursue the (balanced) calendar, but with study,” Scarnecchia added. “We’re open to rolling it out at the (school) board’s direction.”
Vazquez and Scarnecchia told members they are encouraged with the planning to date and have been working closely with the Ann Arbor Education Association to allow teachers who wish to opt out for other schools and invite teachers who would like to be part of the new educational approach to apply.
Some of those staffing changes are already under way and an information workshop for teachers drew 25 interested parties to see what is being planned for the fall, Vazquez said.
School Trustee Christine Stead, who chairs the board Planning Committee, told staff that it would be important for them to put measurements in place to assess the program. Interim Deputy Superintendent for Instruction LeeAnn Dickinson-Kelley said those measures were being pursued and would be in place as the program begins.