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Secondary schools push for training days

Principals of all five Medford secondary schools are seeking the School Board's approval to cancel classes for two days in January so that teachers and administrators can attend a training conference.

With the support of Superintendant Phil Long, all of the principals wrote letters showing their interest in the "professional learning communities" training happening Jan. 12-13 at Central Medford High School.

The letters will be presented to the board at its meeting tonight.

Long alerted the School Board at its Nov. 7 meeting that staff would be asking for the opportunity to attend the training, and voiced his support. "I think it's a significant thing when our staff asks for something like this," said Long. "When people come together on a common ground, for a common purpose, uncommonly good things happen."

The January training conference is being put on by Richard and Rebecca DuFour of the Chicago area, who will explain the benefits of a school's staff working in teams to improve school achievement and student learning.

The DuFours have presented the professional learning communities training many times, calling it the "most promising strategy for sustained school improvement."

Some board members voiced concern about giving students and licensed employees two days off of school when instructional days already are limited. "The days that they are in school is just pitiful, and we know that," said board Vice Chairman Jeff Thomas. "I'm concerned about closing school for two days."

The training will cost the district $75,000 for 250 licensed employees and will meet the federal government's requirement for the district to invest in professional development to improve student performance.

Long said these trainings usually are held farther away, and having the district attend conferences in another city would come at a much higher cost.

Because the training is occurring at Central Medford High School, the district estimated a savings of $130,000 for travel, lodging and meals.

A handful of McLoughlin Middle School employees received professional learning communities training several years ago, and found the information beneficial to school improvement, according to Principal Amy Tiger.

"It really raises the level of people working together," said Tiger. "I think if we miss this opportunity we'll be sorry later on."

Tiger said that when resources are slim, the ability to work as a team is vital.

"I think this will help us focus on student achievement," Tiger said. "It will get us all on the same page."

Because the classified employees wouldn't be included in the training, they still would be under contract with the district to work during the conference.

Long said the classified employees may be able to do catch-up work or offer extra help at the district's elementary schools, which would remain open.

The board will discuss the training conference at 7 p.m. tonight at the district board room, 815 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.