Union blasts program approval

GLENDALE — The school board on Tuesday approved a $105,000 contract extension for an internal instructional program that remains unpopular with the Glendale Teachers Assn., with representatives calling it a waste of resources, especially amid district layoffs.

Funding the educational development program, called Focus on Results, is part of a pattern of wasteful district spending, Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson said.

"This clearly shows what their priorities are, and that it's not for students, because teachers have been consistently telling them this program is not an effective one," she said. "The resources can be spent more productively, and especially at this time when we have all these teachers being laid off."

Through Focus on Results, teachers leave their classroom to observe and record their peers at other campuses. By design, teachers help one another develop the best and most effective teaching methods, advocates of the program say.

Incoming Supt. Dick Sheehan cited the 170 teachers who regularly participate in observations and presentations as an indication of strong participation from a staff of less than 1,300 teachers.

"The academic progress that we've seen, for example, in the Academic Performance Index at all our schools has shown a constant, consistent growth each year," he said.

District officials said that the criticism is unfounded, and that the benefits of Focus on Results are many. It's allowed the central office to cut costs by shrinking staffing in certain departments, and it underscores the importance of continuous improvement, Sheehan said.

"We have to constantly be reviewing and reflecting on our work," he said. "I think it's important our teachers stay current."

But the program's cost is greater than the contract renewal indicates, Carlson said. Last year, it cost more than $300,000 to replace teachers with substitutes, she said.

And while the program is funded through federal grants, Carlson said those funds could replace other expenses, which could go toward keeping class size lower than 30-to-1 teacher-student ratios.

"It's always a shell game of moving money around," Carlson said.

Sheehan disputed that characterization because grants are awarded for specific items.

The cost has dropped every year that Focus on Results has been in place, because the system is designed to be a self-sustaining program, Sheehan said.

"They are weaning themselves out of the process," he said.

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