LEWISTON — A decision to add two teacher workshop days to next year’s calendar was tabled Monday night as officials weighed the need for more professional development for teachers and reducing class time for students.

A decision won’t be made until after Superintendent Bill Webster polls parents and teachers, and after the subject is discussed at the Feb. 8 spaghetti dinner at the Green Ladle.

Last year, committee members agreed to have half-days on Wednesdays, similar to Auburn schools, to help teachers get training for new state and local initiatives, including Performance Based Learning diplomas, customized learning and new teacher evaluations.

Unlike Auburn, Lewiston officials did not want students sent home early. The goal was to provide students with school programs while teachers received training.

After exploring that option, Webster said, “We don’t have the capability to do it.”

He made three suggestions:


• Release students one hour early on Wednesday. The advantage of doing so is to give teachers consistent time throughout the year to work, and teacher development already happens on some Wednesdays, which would expand that time. It would be up to parents to take care of students getting out an hour early on those days.

• Add two teacher workshops into the 2016-17 school calendar in late August. That would add $400,000 to the budget, but it would not impact students.

• Stagger professional development days, holding workshop days at different schools on different days. Lewiston High School might have a teacher workshop one day, the middle school another, and half of the elementary schools, another.

As long as half of Lewiston students are in school, it would meet the legal number of classroom days – 175 – for students, Webster said. That would not impact budget costs and would be helpful to teachers. It could be hard on parents, however, especially those who have children at different schools.

Of all the options, Webster recommended adding two workshop days to the calendar and budget.

School Committee member Richard White said he didn’t like the idea of early release Wednesdays and students losing time from class.


Webster said that is a concern of many, adding, “our teachers spend less time in professional development than teachers in other countries.” A well-trained teacher can be a far more effective teacher, he said. 

School Committee member Benjamin Martin said he hopes Lewiston can go to a half-day on Wednesdays.

“Teachers better prepared can perform better,” but students would lose time in class, he said. “There are no great options. I do support early-release Wednesdays but I don’t think we’re ready.”

Paul St. Pierre said he’d like to hear more feedback from parents before a decision is made.

Webster said teachers work 182 days a year, consisting of 175 student days, two exchange days for when they work long days, and five workshop days: two in August, and one each in October, January and June.

School Committee member Megan Parks suggested creating half-days on the days before the three vacations: December, February and April.


Tom Shannon asked about taking Parks’ suggestion of those three half-days before vacations plus the two extra days in August.

Francis Gagnon suggested taking the full day of school before each vacation to give teachers more professional development time.

Samantha Garnett Sias, president of the Lewiston teachers’ union, said the Lewiston Teachers Association favors half-day Wednesdays.

She reminded committee members when the last teachers contract was approved, the agreement was the district would try to provide half-days Wednesdays. Teachers are asked to carry out “Herculean” tasks with new demands and initiatives in a city where student needs are high and student population is growing, she said.

“We work with some of the toughest but most lovable kids in Maine,” she said. “We love it. We really do.”

But there’s a threshold teachers have reached, she said. 

“Our teachers are communicating that,” she said. Half-day Wednesdays is the lesser of two evils, she said.

“When the workload on teachers is so high they don’t feel like they can effectively carry out their task, then something’s got to give,” she said. 

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