Parents at Portland's Reiche School question new teacher-led model

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PORTLAND — Improving communication was the overarching theme of a special Parent Teacher Organization meeting at Reiche School Monday night.

Ironically, two e-mails went out with different start times for the meeting.

However, once discussion began, the 45 parents and teachers who attended spent several hours discussing the new teacher-led school and a time line for converting the school to the process.

Reiche will be one of the first, if not the first, school in the country to convert an existing administrator-led school into a teacher-led school. The School Board approved the new model on May 31.

“Teachers who are interested in being teacher leaders sent a letter to (Superintendent) Dr. (James) Morse,” said Lori Bobinsky, a data literary specialist at the school who has been working on developing the teacher-led model.

Morse will then choose the candidates to send to the hiring committee.

Those candidates will be reviewed by a committee of parents and teachers. The superintendent will make the ultimate decision about which two teachers will step into the official leadership role, in which they will share the duties typically completed by the principal.

All the teachers will be involved in the major and day-to-day decisions at the school by participating in one of four groups, each with different charges. The chairmen of those groups will meet regularly with the lead teachers and the central office administration, as well as with a parent delegate, all of whom make up the school’s leadership team.

However, parents became concerned over the past few weeks when they felt the teachers and central office administration were not communicating adequately with them.

“I think it’s important people feel comfortable with this, and feel like we’re honest with each other,” parent Jeanne Handy said.

Handy said she is concerned that parents are already splitting into factions, those opposed to the teacher-led model, and those who support it, and that she hoped they could work toward becoming a more cohesive group.

Julie Ziffer, a parent of two Reiche School children, expressed concern that the teachers did not have enough support from the central office administration.

“It feels like there needs to be some other support system for that learning curve,” she said.

Ziffer said she is worried teachers would be overwhelmed by their new roles and the process of learning how to be school administrators. The two teacher leaders will teach half days and be released to their administrative duties the other half of the day.

“It looks like it’s going to be a burden. The teachers here are amazing, but I feel that it’s an unfair burden on them,” Ziffer said.

However, the teachers in attendance seemed undeterred by the challenges, concerned primarily about the process from here on out, including figuring out how teacher evaluations will be done, who the lead teachers will be and getting the committees up and running.

Bobinsky said the committees would be looking for parent volunteers to meet with them next year, and several people suggested the PTO would be best to decide which parents should sit on which committees.

“Teachers and parents together do the best for students,” teacher Jessie Lazenby said. “I don’t want us to get lost on separate committees. I really want to integrate with you.”

Interviews for the teacher leaders will be done June 20. Parents interested in sitting on the interview committee can submit a request to Bobinsky via email: bobinl@portlandschools.org.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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