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LSC proposes school start, end time changes to deal with bus driver shortage
Teachers push back on proposed 7:30 a.m. start for Lafayette Jeff, longer elementary days. Plus, Purdue Northwest chancellor, under fire for racist commencement display, will step down … in a year
Thanks today for sponsorship support from Miracles Fitness, which is hosting a relaunch/ribbon-cutting party May 2. The event will include Fitness Bingo, a plank challenge, food and beverages, free shoe assessments and raffle prizes. Get in on it by signing up for a session or learning about Miracles Fitness’ small group and personal training, yoga, pilates and more for your fitness goals at miraclesfitness.net or emailing email@example.com. Click the link below for more.
Support for Based in Lafayette also comes today from Purdue Convocations, presenting French-Canadian chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy with pianist Inon Barnatan on the Steinway D. Led by conductor Jonathan Cohen, the evening’s performance marks a return to Purdue for the pianist and chamber orchestra and will feature works by Mozart, Mendelssohn, C.P.E. Bach and Shostakovich. Wednesday, April 26, at Loeb Playhouse. Buy tickets here and make a gift to Convos April 26 on Purdue Day of Giving.
LSC CONSIDERS NEW SCHOOL START/END TIMES TO DEAL WITH BUS DRIVER SHORTAGE
First and final bells in Lafayette schools could get jumbled next year, with elementary schools going longer and Jefferson High School starting earlier, under a plan floated to the Lafayette School Corp. board Monday night.
The proposed changes, suggested as LSC administrators try to get the fallout from a bus driver shortage under control, met with a roomful of unhappy teachers during a school board work session.
Among their concerns: Complaints that teachers hadn’t been consulted; that starting Lafayette Jeff’s day at 7:30 a.m. – a half-hour earlier than the first hour now – went against studies that say high schoolers should start later, not earlier; that the proposed start times could leave families with kids in several LSC schools in a bind; and that LSC hadn’t come with a simultaneous proposal for renegotiated contracts for K-4 teachers looking at 45 more minutes of class time a day – or the equivalent of 21 additional instructional days a year.
“I’d suggest LSC hit the pause button and create a committee that would work together to generate other solutions to our transportation problems,” Michele Hamilton, a first-grade teacher at Miller Elementary, said.
LSC Superintendent Les Huddle said the district hadn’t settled on the schedules. He told the board and the crowd in the Hiatt Administration Center that he wouldn’t bring a recommendation for a vote at the board next meeting, May 8.
But Huddle said after the meeting that the board would have to make a decision by its meeting in early June.
“We’re still trying to work through the impacts of all this,” Huddle said. “Parents are going to need to know. Teachers are going to need to know. The community is going to need to know. … We just know we need to do something, because the situation we have isn’t working.”
Here’s the proposed schedule offered to the school board Monday and that had been shared among teachers late last week:
Elementary schools (K-4): 8:20 a.m.-3:25 p.m. (Current: 8:25 a.m.-2:45 p.m.)
Sunnyside Intermediate (5-6): 8:55 a.m.-4:05 p.m. (Current: 8:05 a.m.-3:15 p.m.)
Tecumseh Junior High: 7:30 a.m.-2:45 p.m. (8 a.m.-3:15 p.m.)
Lafayette Jefferson High School: 7:30 a.m.-2:45 p.m. (8 a.m.-3:15 p.m.)
Shifting the schedules would allow LSC to move from what it calls a two-tier bus system to a three-tiered one. That means that LSC bus drivers would be in a position to run three routes in the morning and three in the afternoon, rather than two apiece.
Brandon Hawkins, an LSC assistant principal, said LSC has 57 bus drivers, who earn a starting wage of $21.32 an hour. He said the district needs 69 total – 61 drivers and eight sub drivers to cover absences – carrying 40 to 60 students to make the current open/close schedule work. Hawkins said the shortage puts some drivers in a position to run extra routes, routinely making it to schools 15 minutes or more late.
“It just can’t be sustained,” Hawkins said.
The shift in school times – including adding minutes to the elementary day – would give drivers the time to make additional routes with the group of drivers on staff.
Huddle said LSC wasn’t alone with the bus driver shortage.
Tippecanoe School Corp. rolled out a four-tier system for school start times in fall 2022 to address shortages of bus drivers and a run of late routes in a district with 14,000 students and 437 square miles to cover. The district announced in May last year four sets of start times that ranged from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and dismissal times that ranged from 2:20 p.m. to 4:10 p.m.
Scott Hanback, TSC superintendent, said Monday that routes will be reviewed and modified annually, based on student enrollment. But he said the basic structure of the four tiers will continue next year.
Hanback said the system had three goals: addressing a more reliable system with stable route assignments for drivers, consistent route times for students and setting TSC up for handling future growth.
The results, he said: The TSC Transportation Department began the year fully staffed (“We’re continually seeking new drivers to train for regular routes and the substitute pool,” he said); routes have been more consistent (“Several different factors cause late buses”); and the district is in a better position to handle future growth.
“While there is always room for improvement, overall these three goals were met,” Hanback said.
At LSC’s meeting Monday night, board member Chuck Hockema asked whether pay raises would help. Hawkins said it might, but that LSC was competitive with other districts. Board member Allison McKay asked whether LSC administrators had looked into whether the new times – particularly the 7:30 a.m. start at Lafayette Jeff – might cause attendance problems, even as it fixed bus routes.
“For me, starting school at 7:30 a.m. would be hard,” McKay said.
Avery Houston-Warren, who will be a Lafayette Jeff student, echoed that, citing research from the American Academy of Pediatricians advocating that pushing school times back, rather than earlier, would be beneficial.
“I’m asking you to follow the research,” Houston-Warren said. “At the minimum, maintain the current start time.”
There were other questions about how teachers at elementary schools or Sunnyside Intermediate who also were coaches at the high school would be able to make it for practices and meets under the new schedules.
Huddle said questions about teacher pay likely would be hammered out during teacher negotiations in the fall.
Huddle said the LSC board likely would discuss the schedule proposal during the board’s next work session in late May, with a potential vote in early June.
PURDUE NORTHWEST CHANCELLOR, CALLED OUT FOR MOCKING ASIANS DURING COMMENCEMENT, WILL FINISH TERM IN JUNE 2024
Thomas Keon – roundly blasted by faculty, reprimanded by trustees but not fired for uttering a mocking, Asian-sounding language during Purdue Northwest’s commencement ceremony in December – will make it through the end of his appointment as the regional campus’ chancellor in June 2024, university officials signaled late last week.
Keon will transition to a faculty position at the end of the next school year, as a trustee-led search starts for his successor, the university announced Friday.
“First thought is nausea,” David Nalbone, vice chair of the Purdue Northwest Faculty Senate, said Thursday. “Apparently, competence is not required to be a Purdue administrator, but loyalty is…. Contempt for faculty at Purdue – at all of its campuses – is abundantly clear.”
Faculty at Purdue Northwest had been pushing to oust Keon, now in his 11th year as chancellor, since the scene on a graduation stage in Hammond. Faculty there gave Keon a vote of no confidence in December, following a student-initiated petition with more than 10,000 signatures calling for Keon’s resignation. Hundreds of Asian and Asian American scholars signed a letter to Purdue deriding what they called “little to no consequences at Purdue for institutional racism, neglect of professional responsibilities and cultural incompetence.”
In February, faculty on the University Senate at the West Lafayette campus, with an 88% vote, called on Purdue trustees and administration to take stricter action against Keon in a resolution that included this line: “Given the gravity of the unacceptable behavior by Keon, this is for the good of Purdue.”
It started here: During the graduation ceremony Dec. 10, a local sports radio personality, delivering a keynote address, mentioned that he used a fake language to help calm children in his family. He used it during the ceremony after hearing a fussing child in the audience. Keon came to the microphone and, while thanking the speaker, let out a string of gibberish that he called “sort of my Asian version” of the speaker’s tactic.
Keon apologized, calling his actions “offensive and insensitive” and that he’d made a mistake but “did not intend to be hurtful.”
Purdue trustees gave Keon a formal reprimand two weeks after the commencement ceremony. But trustees stopped short of removing him from his post, saying instead “that a repeat incident of a similar nature would provide grounds for further board action, including possible dismissal.” In January, shortly after stepping in as Purdue president, Chiang told Based in Lafayette: “I’m on the same page as the trustees.”
In a letter to the Purdue Northwest campus Friday, Keon said the June 2024 date was something he’d known “for the last few years.” He attributed the move to a Purdue policy limiting how long someone can serve in leadership positions.
Tim Doty, a Purdue spokesman, said the move was not an extension for Keon, instead was when his current term was due to end. Keon was the first chancellor in 2016 when Purdue Northwest was created with the merger of Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central. He’d been Purdue Calumet chancellor since 2011.
Aside from details of the search – which will be led by Trustee Malcolm DeKryger – Doty said the university had no additional comments.
Thomas Roach, chair of the Purdue Northwest Senate, called Purdue’s move to let Keon finish his term was a “decision by a privileged few to protect one of their own” and that “further alienates members of our minority communities.”
“They are refusing to answer questions and to justify their actions regarding the public insult to the Asian community at the December graduation in Hammond, and they have ignored the no-confidence vote on Chancellor Thomas Keon from the Purdue University Northwest faculty and the calls for his removal,” Roach said. “This board has demonstrated repeatedly that it is accountable to no one.”
COMING THIS WEEK …
PURDUE’S DAY OF GIVING ON WEDNESDAY: The headlines about how Purdue raised $7.5 million in a single 24-hour period in 2014 sound quaint these days. Each year since, Purdue has topped the previous year’s Day of Giving haul, right through the $68.2 million from 26,726 gifts in 2022. (That was up from $52.5 million in 2021.)
Now in its 10th year – and the first under new President Mung Chiang – the Purdue Day of Giving will have colleges, schools and assorted other units on campus reaching out to friends, alumni, parents, students and Greater Lafayette community members, with the pitches starting at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, April 26.
To keep track during the day, here’s your link: dayofgiving.purdue.edu/leaderboards
To donate Wednesday: Go to dayofgiving.purdue.edu or call 800-319-2199.
HONOR FLIGHT TAKE OFF AND LANDING: The Honor Flight of Greater Lafayette is looking for a welcoming committee Wednesday night, when veterans return to the Purdue Airport from a one-day excursion to see memorials to their service in Washington, D.C. The flight is expected to arrive back at Purdue Airport at 7:30 p.m. The evening typically draws a crowd of hundreds to welcome the veterans as they reach the tarmac.
Thanks, again, to sponsors Purdue Convocations, presenting French-Canadian chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy with pianist Inon Barnatan, on Wednesday, April 26, at Loeb Playhouse, and Miracles Fitness, which is preparing for its relaunch event May 2.
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