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Single-gender classes to continue at Marshall Middle School

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
May 25, 2011
— The single-gender classroom program at Marshall Middle School will continue next fall, but maybe not in all three grades.

The Janesville School Board voted 8-1 Tuesday to continue the program, which began in 2007 and serves about a third of Marshall's 900 students.


Board members were not convinced that single-gender education is superior to mixed classrooms, however, and Marshall Principal Synthia Taylor said she was not arguing that it is.


The program is an option for families who want it, and it seems to be working for those families, Taylor told the board.


Taylor has a problem with staffing the single-gender classrooms next fall. One of her single-gender teachers was laid off, and one was transferred to another school during the recent enrollment-driven teacher cuts.


Taylor said principals districtwide still don't know which teachers are being transferred to their schools for next fall. A shuffling of teachers will occur because of position cuts and the union bumping procedure.


Taylor said it's not yet known whether she'll get teachers with the right skill sets and enthusiasm for single-gender classes, and if she does, they would need to be trained. At this point, she has teachers to staff eighth grade plus one other teacher who has volunteered.


Human resources director Steve Sperry said staffing for the coming year needs to be set by June 10.


The board voted to pay for training teachers, which was expected to cost a maximum of $4,000 but will probably cost much less.


The board also agreed to allow the district to staff single-gender classrooms in grades six and seven if suitable teachers can be found.


Greg Ardrey was the lone "no" vote. He did not specifically outline his objection, but he said the data do not appear to show that single-gender is superior to mixed classes. He said the main thing he hears from parents is that their children like the ability to speak in class without worrying what students of the opposite gender think.


Two parents spoke in favor of the program.


"For the right kid, it's the right thing to do," one mother said.


IN OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Tuesday, the Janesville School Board:


-- Agreed to move the Janesville Academy for International Studies, a program for high school students, to UW-Rock County, where the program will be able to use the facilities free of charge. An earlier plan had been to move the program to Craig and Parker high schools, but the academy's board didn't like that idea. Moving from the downtown location will save $44,000 in rent and $5,000 in custodial costs.


-- Agreed to cut about $635,000 from the district maintenance budget, one of the final measures taken to balance the 2011-12 budget. The cut leaves about $527,000 for capital maintenance projects.


-- Discussed reversing a previous cut of the middle school police officers but postponed a decision to the June 14 meeting.


-- Approved the appointment of Craig High School assistant principal Chris Laue as the new principal of Parker High School. Laue referred to budget cuts when he said he looks forward to working with staff in "redefining roles, doing more with less and pushing student achievement."


-- Heard the district will receive a $180,000 state grant over three years to train staff on bullying and safety and help reduce violence and drug/alcohol abuse. Superintendent Karen Schulte said precisely how the money will be spent has not been determined.



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