GREENCASTLE -- Since Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett took office in January 2009, several changes concerning education in Indiana have taken place.
One of those changes is that schools are no longer allowed to give teachers half-days for professional development.
Greencastle Schools Assistant Superintendent Dawn Puckett said research shows that professional development for educators is imperative for not only their own improvement, but for the students as well.
"Research is telling us one thing and the state is telling us another," she told the Greencastle Community School Corp. Board of Trustees Wednesday night. "The bottom line is, if we want to improve our students' education, we have to improve our instruction."
To that end, Puckett suggested Greencastle Schools develop professional learning communities -- structured time for teachers to work together in planning instruction, observing each other's classrooms and giving one another feedback -- to replace the half-days for staff development that used to be allowed.
Deer Meadow Primary principal Gwen Morris pointed out that professional learning communities were being used throughout the United States and all over the world.
"Our students who don't have this opportunity are at a real disadvantage," she said.
Puckett said workshops were not the best way for teachers to continue their development, as the information gleaned from them was "not job-imbedded and not ongoing."
Daniel TeGrotenhuis, principal of Tzouanakis Intermediate School, said he was in favor or professional learning communities being instituted.
"We've been working on this since last fall," he said. "We've shared our thoughts, tentative ideas and even some plans."
All the schools in the Greencastle district are well over the state requirement for daily instruction -- all the schools have 45 minutes extra except Greencastle Middle School, which has 35 extra minutes each week.
Currently, teachers work from 7:55 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the middle school and from 7:50 to 3:10 at all the other schools in the corporation. With the implementation of professional development communities, their workday on Mondays would begin at 7:40 a.m., and the students would start classes 35 minutes later.
"The professional learning communities could last from 45 to 55 minutes and we'd still be within state requirements," said Puckett.
Morris said the late start time on Mondays could be a good thing all around.
"We have more absenteeism and tardies on Mondays," she said.
Not sending teachers to other workshops would save the district about $20,000 a year, Puckett said.
The board voted unanimously to allow Puckett to move forward in developing the program.