Commentary by Dr. Beth Niedermeyer
When I joined Noblesville Schools a few months ago, it quickly became clear to me that the No. 1 topic staff, parents and community members wanted to discuss was the pending change in start times that had been initiated last school year.
I heard from many who strongly supported the change to a later start time. Like me, and the calendar committee who had been studying this issue for months, they believed in the research that said later school start times were a positive influence for adolescents.
I also heard a strong message from many who did not like the idea of changing start times – how it might impact elementary students, how it would affect after school activities, and how it would disrupt childcare schedules.
I initiated an independent survey so I could have data to add to the conversation, and to ensure all voices had the opportunity to be heard. The comprehensive survey feedback has been shared publicly, and it echoed what I had been hearing informally. Forty percent of respondents favored a later start time aligned with what research suggests, and they supported that option rather strongly. Sixty percent of respondents favored a “compromise” option, but it was not strongly supported, as many of those respondents didn’t really want to change times at all.
I’ve had dozens of parent, staff and community meetings, emails and discussions on this subject, and have read through all of the approximately 800 comments that were submitted with the survey.
Two themes that I’ve heard over and over again have really resonated with me. Many are concerned that Noblesville Schools has experienced too much change, too quickly; and has not been listening to what the community wants.
If a significant portion of our community feels we’re not listening to them, not implementing changes at an appropriate pace, or not focusing our efforts in the right areas, then we’re not serving our community appropriately.
Let me be very clear when I say that Noblesville Schools will continue on its path of being innovative leaders in the education field. It’s a key reason I decided to join the organization, and it’s at the heart of what makes Noblesville Schools so successful in preparing our kids for the future. We take pride in the fact that our district is frequently studied by other high performing districts looking to emulate our Miller Shift approach to education.
Changes to school policy can’t and won’t always make everyone happy. That isn’t something to apologize for, and isn’t something we will shy away from going forward. My vision for Noblesville Schools is to be innovators with our community. Innovators who listen. Innovators who implement successful change with the support of our constituents. In addition to the time I’ve been spending discussing school start times, I’ve been assessing the organization overall as part of my 100-day plan. I’ve identified four key focus areas that are my top priorities to address. These include:
● Developing a more comprehensive analysis and alignment of our curriculum;
● Visioning and planning for the future of Noblesville Schools;
● Managing a more rigorous budget, including identifying additional cost efficiencies and revenue opportunities; and
● Fostering stronger relationships between school leadership and school employees, parents and the Noblesville community.
Changing our school start times doesn’t align with these objectives. In fact, I believe it is in direct conflict to the critical relationship-building objective.
Now that we have closed this issue, Noblesville Schools will be working to move forward towards other areas of priority for our kids. As always, I appreciate your support.
Dr. Beth Niedermeyer is superintendent of Noblesville Schools. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-3171.