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Request denied: BBE to consider whether to pursue four-day week after 2015-16 year

BELGRADE — Whether to pursue keeping a four-day school week after the 2014-15 school year will be on the agenda Monday for the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa board of education.

BBE and MACCRAY are among area school districts to have recently received a letter from the Department of Education denying their request to continue the four-day schedule for the coming three years. Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius approved the four-day schedule for the 2014-15 school year for the two districts as a “transition to a traditional five-day calendar beginning 2015-16.’’

BBE Superintendent Matt Bullard contacted Commissioner Cassellius about the decision earlier this week and learned that the district is not obligated to follow her letter. If the district chooses not to follow the letter, the Department of Education has no means to fine or withhold educational funds from it.

He will relay that information to board members when they take up the issue on Monday.

The MACCRAY district has already made known its interest in maintaining its four-day schedule after 2014-15 and will appeal the commissioner’s decision.

Commissioner Cassellius approved a three-year continuance of the four-day schedule for ACGC one year ago. With the next two years already approved, the district does not need to take any action at this time.

However, ACGC Superintendent Sherri Broderius said the district intends to send a copy of its professional development program to the commissioner as a possible model for other districts.

The ACGC district has an ambitious staff development program. The district devotes nine days through the course of the school year exclusively to staff development.

When the commissioner approved the district’s four-day schedule last year, she favorably cited ACGC’s staff development program.

The superintendent credits the four-day schedule with making the staff development program possible. “I don’t know how schools do professional development (when they) don’t have a four-day week,’’ Broderius said.

Like the other districts with four-day weeks, ACGC originally adopted the schedule to save money. The district was in a statutory operating debt and was looking for every possible savings. The cuts included a four-year stretch without any funding for staff development.

As its finances improved, the district realized it could take advantage of its four-day schedule to provide a very effective staff development program without having to interrupt academic schedules, she explained.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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