Revamped schedule at Herricks Middle School sees team teaching return in the fall

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Herricks Middle School Principal Brian McConaghy discusses the team teaching proposal with the board. (Photo by Samuel Glasser)

BY SAMUEL GLASSER

in a major makeover of how the school day is structured, team teaching will return to the Herricks Middle School in September after an absence of several years.

The Board of Education voted at its regular meeting last Thursday to accept the plan after hearing a presentation by Middle School Principal Brian McConaghy, also attended by several Middle School administrators and teachers.

The main goals of the new schedule include adding recess time to lunch, creating teams, providing teachers with common preparation time, increasing opportunities for students and seeking to “enhance 21st century learning,” McConaghy said.

A team will consist of four teachers, each in a key subject area – math, science, social studies and English – and 75 to 100 students, he said. The system gives teachers greater flexibility in coordinating the material. They will be able to plan projects and units of study that integrate a variety of subjects.

The teachers will also have common preparation time, allowing for greater professional collaboration, McConaghy said.

The draft plan is a change from the team system that was discontinued several years ago for budget reasons.

Revamping the lunch schedule was a key to rescheduling classes. At present there are five lunch periods of 22 minutes ranging in size from 145 to 250 students with no time for recess or lunchtime extra help. Under the new plan, three lunch periods of 44 minutes will each serve 165 to 170 students. The additional 22 minutes will be a recess period which will allow for recreation in the gym or outdoors or time in the library or computer lab.

McConaghy opened his presentation with the question “what makes middle school so special?” He said that the three years spent in middle school – grades six, seven and eight – are a time when children grow intellectually and emotionally more than at any other point outside of infancy. “The goal is to promote a love of learning that can carry them through high school and beyond,” he said.

“Teaming promotes shared experiences among students and teachers that build a sense of community,” he told the board. In increasing the opportunities for 21st century learning skills, the team structure will strengthen the focus on a number of areas, including project-based learning, research skills, digital citizenship, expansion of the home and careers program, and promoting literacy across subjects.

Other classes such as foreign languages, music, art or other electives would be taught outside the team structure.

The schedule has been under development for the last year and a half. A committee of 18 teachers and administrators researched numerous middle school schedules, visited neighboring schools and ran a model using management software that finally hit on the fourth iteration. The committee also sought feedback from parents and other faculty members.

In other business, the board ratified the new contract with the Herricks Teachers Association covering the district’s teaching assistants. The previous contract expired at the end of June 2019. Association President Nidya Degliomini said the board and the union are now negotiating the contract for school-related personnel such as custodial and clerical workers. Their contract expires in June.

The board reached a settlement with the HTA on a new teachers’ contract in October 2019. That contract expired in June 2018.

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