Crunch Time for Number-Crunching

School Staff Must Account for Student Instruction Time

Heidi Piela says she enjoys the challenge of filing reports to the state that account for Northview’s instruction days and hours

Juggling scads of numbers doesn’t really bother Heidi Piela. After all, it’s her job as accounts payable/pupil accounting specialist for the district. But her work gets a little more intense at mid-summer.

That’s when Piela sends ultra-detailed reports to the Michigan Department of Education to verify the district has scheduled the required 180 days and 1,098 hours of instruction for all of its students.

“It’s kind of hot and heavy at the beginning of the year,” she says with a smile, which is an understatement considering the two to three weeks’ worth of work involved.

The reports are crucial for Northview to account for all of its nearly 3,400 students’ instruction time, and therefore receive state aid for each student, for the school year beginning Monday, Aug. 28. Piela must file detailed reports for every school and grade in the district. For students who have different schedules, such as those who have zero-hour classes or go to the Kent Career Tech Center, she must file separate reports.

For Math Majors Only

A glance at one report might make most heads spin. For each building, it requires accounting for all calendar days of instruction and for every class period: start time, end time, passing time between classes, and total minutes for lunch. That’s for the regular schedule as well as for the alternate schedules.

For instance, students going to the Tech Center may be scheduled from 6:55 to 9:10 a.m., and are allowed 18 minutes’ travel time each way (or else get a waiver for additional travel time). Down time between when a student returns to the high school and begins his next class does not count as instruction.

“Any time with or in front of a certified teacher is what can be counted,” Piela says.

Sound like an instant migraine? Not at all, she insists cheerfully.

“I like it a lot. This is fun because it’s a little more project-based” than her usual work accounting for staff payroll and such. “Once I get this task done, it’s done.”

That is, until the end of the school year, when she has to file reports for all days of actual instruction – plus snow days, of course.

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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