Teachers speak out as Parkway School District implements a 190-minute reduction to teacher plan time


Ruthvi Tadakamalla

Tom Herpel uses his plan time to prepare for future Latin classes in which students learn grammar, literature, and culture. Herpel wanted to avoid jumping to conclusions about the upcoming changes to reduce teacher plan time. “I will not know the type of time crunch I will be under until I’ve experienced it. I might be able to get work done while I’m doing this other responsibility. I hesitate to make assumptions without having experienced it myself,” Herpel said.

Think of everything a teacher needs to do to prepare for class. A student might come into class and start their work immediately, but a teacher needs to spend hours planning and preparing to ensure learning continues unhampered. But as teachers’ plan times slowly dwindle down into fewer minutes, our education will plummet in quality as the district enacts the new changes. 

Missouri guarantees that teachers have at least 250 minutes of plan time each week. High school teachers in Parkway have a little over 400 minutes, so the Parkway administration has the power to make whatever cuts are deemed necessary. For the 2023-2024 school year, this means decreasing teacher plan time by 190 minutes per week.

“It’s going to be difficult to maintain the level of work that we do with less time; I’m curious to see how teachers adapt because there are other districts that have been following this extra duty model for a long time, and those teachers were able to adapt. It’ll impact how many things get graded and how quickly students can get feedback,” English teacher Courtney Brockmeyer said.

Parkway still needs to provide a detailed statement or plan on why they are cutting teacher plan time. Whatever the reason, teachers will be forced to adapt to the changes being made. This is frustrating for many students as we are forced to deliberate on whether our quality of education will be negatively affected by teachers not having enough time to provide quality feedback as quickly as possible. It can be debated whether lessons and activities will be as rigorous as they currently are due to teachers’ reduction of time to coordinate or prepare for the course’s intensity level.

“We have to figure out what grading looks like and how long assignments can be. I feel confused over the change because the district has pinpointed places where we need to improve education, but they follow it up [by] taking away planned time,” Brockmeyer said.

Teachers have heard they would be given supervisory roles such as monitoring the halls during their plan times. 

“It is a worthy goal to want to keep things safe in the hallway, [but] because of the poor communication, there have been a lot of suspicions that there is a reason beyond wanting to keep the halls secure,” math teacher Kevin John said.

Like teachers who disagree with alternate use of their plan time, students have expressed that hallways are not in need of monitoring.

“For me, the halls can be rough to navigate sometimes but students are generally respectful and responsible to each other. If adding hall or lunch monitors will take away from my education, I don’t believe it is worth it,” freshman Amelia Bothmann said.

According to most teachers I have interviewed, little details have been provided to educators as to how their plan time will be utilized. Still, some teachers have made assumptions that they will be asked to hall monitor, lunch monitor, observe testing centers, and supervise study areas. Like the notice my teachers have received from the administration, my family and I have not received any information regarding the changes. As someone who will be greatly affected by the change, I wish I had more details on the matter. 

“Teachers are stretched for time. For me, juggling teaching, coaching and meeting with students outside of class is a lot. To have some of our plan period taken away adds more stress to the day — it’s hard to tell how much time it will take away [on] a daily basis. The building has a ton of different needs. In a perfect world, we would have enough people in the building to cover those needs. Unfortunately, we don’t have the personnel to do that, so I understand why [the administration is] asking for teachers to do that,” Latin teacher Tom Herpel said.

This reduction in time allocated to teachers within the school day may cause them to cut valuable units and assignments or decrease the feedback they can give students. For example, it takes 10-30 minutes to grade an English essay, so when there are 80 essays to be graded and not enough time, a teacher will have to either work overtime or reduce the feedback they give to a student. The only way students can improve their skills is by understanding their mistakes, which is easier to do when teachers give elaborate comments on our work — and teachers can only do so if they have enough time.

Kevin John grades math assignments and plans for finals during his plan time. He has expressed disagreement with Parkway’s new changes. “I grade almost every weekend for a couple of hours [and] a lot of time in the evenings,” John said. (Ruthvi Tadakamalla)

“It’s frustrating because it ignores that teachers already spend their unpaid time working on schoolwork. To [have] time taken away when I’m already working outside of school [hours] is disappointing,” John said.

Teachers wish the district would have included their voices in the decision-making process. In the past years, Parkway has made changes without teachers’ input. Examples include changing monitors in the building from Apple to PC and changing student schedules from 45-minute to 90-minute periods. 

“I’m disappointed that the Parkway administration is making decisions without the justifications that I think are necessary. They could show more concern for the teacher load. As far as everything we’re being asked to do, it seems that year after year, we get more things that we are asked to do, but nothing is taken away. If they’re going to start doing this more, they’ve got to take away some things,” history teacher and Parkway National Education Association representative Jeff Chazen said.

Teachers are frustrated by their lack of voice and tone-deaf messages from upper management and students have heard their teachers’ personal concerns about these new changes. Many students hope the district will find new ways to allocate responsibilities and include teacher voices in the decision-making process. 

“As a department leader, I have extra duties incorporated into my day, like my budget. The budget for our department, with so many consumable materials, is a weekly task. As a photography teacher, maintaining the dark room and continuing to mix and update the chemicals is a chore that usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour during my plan time. I’m not sure when that’s going to happen,” art teacher Katy Mangrich said. “My goal during my plan time is to meet my current students’ needs and develop lessons that challenge them and allow them to grow as artists. I feel devalued as a teacher because [Parkway is] continuing to ask us to do more with less time, forcing us to work outside of contract hours to complete necessary tasks, ultimately sacrificing our family time.”


Like the art department, the music department also needs more planning time than they are being allocated. Because they need so much time for various aspects of their music curriculum, such as playing tests, concerts, and learning notes for various instruments, music teachers face a more difficult time with the change. Teachers in the music department, including music teacher Ed Sandheinrich, have taken an early start to adapt to changes for next year.

“I’m going to do one fewer concert than I’ve done the last few years [and] look for different ways to assess students. In the past, [students have] sent a video — that’s more beneficial because it gives the kid as many tries as they need. [Now], I might have to start [using class time], so we’re going to lose rehearsal time,” Sandheinrich said.

In addition to teachers at West High, other students and staff in Parkway have expressed frustration over the plan time reduction. In a board meeting, students from Parkway South High School and Parkway Central High School, advocated for their teachers to have more plan time. An anonymous source has begun an online petition to give the community a voice. If students hope to have the same, consistent quality of education of the past few years, signing this petition will make the administration recognize the dissent that teachers, parents, and students have against the new changes. 

“The problem that Parkway is running into is that they’re having problems finding people to hire for those jobs because there are more competitive wages — nobody is doing this job,” Chazen said.

Even though teachers have felt frustration and anger toward the district, they have shown strength and resilience through their positivity over the matter, so, as students, we hope they will persevere through the changes and challenges that come with the new school year.

“In the 28 years I’ve been here, more work has been put on the teacher’s shoulders, and we still perform. We still turn out the best kids in the world. We’re all professionals, and we’re going to have nothing but the best education and the best classes. It’s going to be more work on us, [but] we’re just going to do it because that’s how we are,” history teacher Nancy Sachtleben said.

Parkway’s mission statement “is to ensure all students are capable, curious, caring and confident learners who understand and respond to the challenges of an ever-changing world.” To make this possible, we need to advocate for teachers to keep their plan times. With these upcoming changes, every student will be depleted of many learning milestones. Now is the time to speak up and advocate for the teachers to have the same amount of plan time as they do now because changes can be irreversible once they are adopted.