Results are in from a parent and community survey to gather feedback on the possibility of a four-day week at Miami Public Schools.

MIAMI –And the survey says....a four-day school week is favored by a majority of the 517 participants in a Miami Public Schools survey.

The Miami Public Schools Board and administration has been looking at the option of moving from a traditional five-day school week to a four-day alternative citing teacher retention and recruitment as the main incentive.

With education funding continuing to take hits in Oklahoma and several state education legislative changes pending, MPS Superintendent Jeremy Hogan and the board said there is much to consider before a decision is made.

The survey was issued in an effort to gain feedback and greater insight from all affected by a move to a four-day school week.

Now results are in for the Four Day Survey sent out to parents and the public for participation. The survey drew 519 respondents, of those 441 were parents or guardians, and 78 community members with no children in school.

Hogan was disappointed in the low number of respondents to the survey.

“The response was not quite what we wanted,” Hogan said. “In talking to Waggoner they had close to 1,000 responses in their survey and they have similar demographics as our community does. Newcastle had about double that, of course, they're an upper middle-class community. I was really hoping for more total responses from the community. I thought we had good parental participation.”

Hogan said he also received 31 response letters and emails outside of the survey.

Notice of the survey was issued to parents through the All Call System, by email, and on social media with links for the MPS website to the survey as well as articles and stories in the media. Computers were also made accessible to parents at each school site for the purpose of taking the survey.

“In hindsight, we probably could have sent out a paper survey,” Hogan said.

Numbers

Of the survey respondents, 339 or 65 percent are for a four-day school week, and 178 or 34 percent are opposed.

Asked what kind of impact they felt a four-day week would have on students' academic performance 48 percent answered it would be positive, 24 percent responded negative impact, 8 percent answered no impact and 19 percent were unsure of the impact.

Asked what impact a four-day week would have on students' supervision, safety and nutritional needs, respondents answered; 28 percent a positive impact, 25 percent a negative impact, 34 percent no impact and 12 percent unsure of the impact.

A four-day week's impact on students' extracurricular activities was seen as having a positive impact by 33 percent of respondents, 19 percent a negative impact, no impact by 35 percent and 11 percent were unsure of the impact.

The move to a four-day week's impact on recruitment and retention of staff was seen as a positive by 70 percent, negative by 7 percent and having no impact by 22 percent of respondents.

Comments

196 comments from the respondents taking the survey were also logged and shared in the survey results.

“I think that Miami's students deserve the best teachers we have available. As a 4th Generation Wardog, (and eventually the mother of a 5th Generation Wardog) I want MPS to be known as a front runner in the educational field in Oklahoma. To do that, I know that Miami has to do whatever it takes to keep and retain the best teachers we can get. It might be an inconvenience to some, but in the long run, more time spent with our children, will outweigh all the negative impacts,” one survey respondent wrote.

Another respondent wrote, “ It is a sad day for the future of our children, community, state and nation when we place the education of our children at risk to recruit and retain "quality" educators. Quality educators are those who have a passion for their students and their subjects. Their first and foremost concern is always what is best for their students. Any increase in job satisfaction which comes with such a change as you suggest will diminish as it becomes the status quo.

"What will be the next strategy? Hopefully, you are considering what that will be because once a four day work week becomes the norm, it will no longer be considered a "perk". Relying on data from three districts which are relatively new to the four-day concept is not research driven. It is anecdotal data. Why would we make a decision which affects the education of our children and their future based on such shallow data? Also, have you considered the impact a four-day week would have on future economic development for Miami? I hope our Board of Education will consider the long term versus a short term, quick fix which will only exacerbate the challenges facing our community.”

One of the comments mentions moving their child out of MPS writing, “There is little child care offered in this town, and the cost of using one, one day a week will be impossible with the demand of more people needing it. My child is already exhausted when he arrives home so the long days would be even worse for him. If this happens I hope Miami will accept transfers as I will be requesting a transfer to Welch.”

“I'm very pleased to see the school district taking an initiative in retaining and recruiting staff. Our children need good teachers. Keep up the good work,” offered another respondent.

“There wasn't really much that surprised me,” Hogan said of the results. “I think even for those who voted in favor, there's still a little bit of concern there that they have about some of those areas such as supervision and nutritional things and extracurricular things or the non-certified staff. So they recognize the challenges, at the very least we got a conversation started with our community and our parents.”

Decision making

Hogan hopes the concerns are heard at the Oklahoma State Capitol by state lawmakers to allow for more funding to address these issues.

“There's no studies out there that state four-day weeks have a positive effect, just because it's so new for the most part. Most districts that have gone to that, it wasn't for the recruitment and retention piece, it was either to save money or cut down on student absenteeism,” he said.

According to Hogan, four-day weeks were piloted in schools in Colorado to accommodate students located in rural areas and ski towns and is relatively new to Oklahoma.

The information gathered from the survey has been shared with the MPS Board, and the superintendent is now in the process of holding discussions with staff.

“We've kind of started some initial meetings and just started talking about it. I've got a professional development day Friday, and Friday afternoon I am visiting with all the certified staff,” Hogan said. “ We're going to talk about where we go from here. There are other things to take in consideration beside the survey.”

Hogan has been doing his homework on the issue, visiting with state leaders and legislators, area representatives, Department of Education members, leaders with the Oklahoma State School Board Association, and administrators and educators associations.

The superintendent said Miami's look at four-day weeks has drawn interest from other school districts and professional education organizations and the State Department.

“For some reason, our four-day piece is getting a lot of play and is drawing a lot of interest. A lot of people have contacted me about that, kind of wanting to know where we're at, and encouraging me to look at different things, which we are, and we were anyway. I think we're getting it because basically, it's a unique model in Oklahoma. At this point in time it's predominantly rural schools, and people consider us more of a suburban school, our unique location intrigues people too because they recognize the difficulties we're having in recruiting and retaining teachers and they understand what we're trying to do,” Hogan said. “We're also looking at some of the legislation that's out there.”

Concern swirls around the issue, and Hogan fears four-day weeks may be caught up in political bargaining.

“The big piece up at the Capitol is they're still trying to get teacher pay raises passed through, and I think that's being used a little bit as a bargaining chip. They're wanting to basically force us to go five days and to do that I think it's going to take away some local control. We do have some concerns about a piece of legislation, House Bill 1684, and one thing it mandates is school districts have to develop a plan if they are going to a non-traditional schedule such as a four-day week. This plan has to be very well developed, meet certain criteria, answer various questions and it has to be presented to the State Department of Education for approval.”

If passed, the measure would grant the privilege of an approved alternative schedule for three years and require reapplication before the end of that period.

“So, they're definitely making it tougher even to consider this it looks like to become a four-day school,” Hogan said. “There's lots of things to consider and look at. Ultimately getting the conversation started, continuing to converse with our stakeholders and let them know the difficulties we're facing as a school district and encouraging them to let their voice be heard. You know education has taken a back seat for way too long. It's time for us to step out and make it a priority and let our leaders know that it is a priority to us. We've got to have high-quality educators in the classroom because that's where it all starts at if we want our students to be successful.”

Hogan said he and the board will consider all feedback and he will be meeting with district teachers and administrators. He hopes to have a calendar to present to the school board for approval by the April meeting in order to have things in place for either a four or five-day school week for the 2017/2018 school year.

“A decision has not been made...I'm going to have to step up and make a difficult decision and recommend to the school board a particular calendar,” Hogan said.