Monthly Archives: December 2013

Today’s meeting with school and Board of Education representatives

Note: This is the same message that has been posted on the Facebook page, repeated for your convenience.

Today a group of us met with both Assistant Superintendents, Mr. Last, Mr. Jira, Ms. Fitzkee, and Ms. Powers. The meeting was cordial enough, but they made it perfectly clear at the beginning and end that they do not consider continuing a semester block schedule as an option, and do not see any path that would let them keep that in place.

It’s not completely negative, though. In just the past few days, the Board of Education has given the school permission to be “as creative as they need to be to guarantee the students’ success.” What that means is that, in many cases, they will be scheduling classes that would have taken sequential semesters as concurrent courses on an A/B basis, and simply teaching one for the first half of the year, and the other for the second half.

For the relatively large number of parallel enrollments and spring interns, they are taking pains to schedule the necessary classes in the morning, to facilitate those activities and minimize the impact of eliminating the semester model.

The biggest benefit they see is elimination of instructional gaps, such as a student taking English in fall semester one year, and not again until spring the following year. According to Mr. Jira, who is the school scheduling guru, between 40% and 45% of the students are in that situation, which causes known problems.

The team also spent a fair amount of time talking about students with special needs, but I will let someone closer to those issues address what their impressions were

The good news, according to the guidance and scheduling team, is that few students will notice a difference, and they are committed to working with individual students where needed to solve schedule problems.

The bad news, according to us, is that the commitment is from the existing school team, and whether we like it or not, that is subject to change.

There’s little doubt that the school has significantly more flexibility than it did several days ago. It was inferred that the additional flexibility could have been due, at least in part, to the pressure that has been brought to bear by the community.

Pat yourselves on the back a little. Not too much; we’re not finished yet.

Five Ways to Get Your Email Ignored

We need you to email all your friends. We need you and your friends to email Dr. Dance, Maria Lowry, and Mr. Last.

We also need you to get your email read. Please don’t do the things on this list.

1) Repeat a lot of facts.

By this time, it’s safe to presume that the message is pretty widespread. If you want to turn people off, repeat the facts they already know.

It’s safe and effective to say “If you need more background, go here.”

2) Write a long message.

Email is like sushi — small pieces and variety work best. If someone has to scroll to get to the bottom of your email, chances are they won’t.

Email should be less than one smartphone screen long wherever possible.

3) Don’t include a call to action.

If you don’t want something, don’t ask! Keep people confused about why you’re sending the message.

Or, you could have a subject like, “Please send emails for us!” Ask in the body of the message, too. For example, “We need you to send email to Dr. Dance (ddance@bcps.org) and Maria Lowry (mlowry@bcps.org) to tell them you support keeping Hereford High School’s current schedule.”

4) Make sure everyone sees the correspondent list.

People love to scroll through your list of two hundred friends, and adore having their email address publicized to all of them. Not!

Put your list in the BCC field, unless you really want everyone to know who you’re sending to.

5) Say the exact same thing as someone else.

Copy/paste is easy, so everyone should use it, right? Wrong!

Make your email personal. Speak from your experience or belief. You can use facts to bolster your point, but first-hand experience and stories will have more impact. “My son benefits from the current scheduling model, so please don’t change it” is a good subject line for an email to the administration, as is “I’m a sophomore, and won’t be able to get the classes I need if you change the scheduling model.” “I support keeping the current schedule” just doesn’t have the same impact.

Happy emailing!

Here are some facts to use when you’re talking to media, or people who need to be convinced

This link will get you a PDF file that has performance numbers and other facts to help you get the message out.

One interesting thing that was brought to my attention last night, but which isn’t in the PDF, is an observation that there is no evidence that changing away from the schedule we currently have will have a positive effect on test scores. There is, however, anecdotal evidence that just the opposite is true — HHS students’ performance is at risk if we lose the semester block schedule.

Hereford-High-School-Save-the-Semester-Block-Schedule.pdf