Board Also Receives Update on Later Start
By Nicholas von Wettberg
At its most recent meeting, Thursday night, the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) Board of Education received a progress report on the implementation of later start times for district secondary schools.
Prior to the update, however, Board President Madhavi Sunder addressed the pending status of DJUSD Superintendent Winfred Roberson, who, after five-plus years at the helm, has been offered the same position by a school in a different region.
“The Glendale Unified School Board has been very open about the fact that they are excited to have Winfred Roberson join them as their superintendent,” Sunder said on behalf of the board. “While nothing has been finalized, we are very pleased for Winfred and understand that this prospect is an excellent opportunity. We are following the Glendale process and we believe we will be able to speak with more specifics in two weeks.”
Sunder added, “In the meantime, as a Board, we will be thinking carefully about what steps will be necessary should a transition occur, that will include a public process that is open and inclusive.”
The offer will not be official until February 17, when, at that point, Roberson is expected to accept it, and give the 60-day notice included in his current contract.
As for the direction the board may take, if things play out as projected, there is a range of options from which to choose. Among them are appointing an interim superintendent, with a search process to follow, or filling the position permanently in the coming months with a candidate they feel best meets their criteria.
“We are fortunate to have a strong and talented team at the district office,” Sunder said. “Our priority will be to preserve a strong leadership structure and consistent vision for Davis schools.”
The news in the later start times report, presented by Associate Superintendent Matt Best, was positive, and showed willingness on the part of the district to explore suggestions made by the board in their December meeting, to ramp up parts of its timeline.
Best said that, since the last meeting, “a lot of things have been happening, particularly secondary schools, related to Later Start.” He also promised the board there would be an update “every other month.”
According to the report, since the last presentation, a new schedule committee has been formed by members of the Davis High School staff, already meeting twice, which resulted in tasks like the analysis of alternate models for scheduling and the sharing of information through visits to other schools.
Best said junior high school principals have been meeting with their staffs, and efforts are underway to move all junior high school start times to 8:30 am for the 2016-17 school year.
During the last meeting, the board and its members felt unsure about the proposed timeline, essentially requesting a greater sense of urgency, on the part of the district, in implementing the system sooner rather than later.
Research shows adolescents are in need of at least 8.5 to 9 hours of sleep every night, yet, for a number of reasons, they typically fail to meet the necessary amount. According to a study done by the University of Minnesota, this same lack of sleep causes adverse effect on brain function and motor ability.
At the district’s Parent Engagement Night on January 26, one of the Breakout sessions included a presentation, titled, “Focusing LIGHT on SLEEP,” which was given to parents, and various educators, in attendance, by Sleep and Light Consultants Deborah Burnett and James Benya.
The session provided information about ways to adjust for the different circadian rhythms of adolescents, using exposure to light as a means for more normal sleep patterns.
“So that (8:30 start) is looking like it’s going to be a reality and they’ll likely be finalizing the details of that shift in the coming weeks,” Best said. “We’re still working on the logistics of junior high school to junior high school co-enrollment in order to determine if it’s feasible for the 16-17 school year, depending on the junior high school schedules.”
The planning committee is in discussion with elementary schools over some of the potential issues that might come about as a result of the change.
In the district’s quest to cover all its bases, Best has reached out to University of Minnesota Professor Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom, a pioneer in Later Start time, who began her research in 1996.
Wahlstrom ended up referring Best to a colleague of hers, who is preparing to do research, in conjunction with UC Davis, on the mental and physical health effects of sleep, and the relationship it has to Later Start times.
Board Vice President/Clerk Barbara Archer asked if the final schedule for the spring was available. Davis High School Vice Principal Tom McHale, in his response and to his credit, acknowledged that was something the board had raised a concern about in the December meeting.
“We are looking into that,” said McHale. “We’ve gotten some proposals from our staff members and have taken an initial vote on three different possibilities, so we’re going to continue the discussion. We also need to bring in our secondary school partners…but we’re making good progress, and we appreciate your input on that and motivating us to look into starting Later Start with our spring final exams.”