First things first

We're big fans of teamwork. We also think highly of professional development training that helps people do their jobs better. But when it comes to a choice between training conferences for employees and performing the organization's core function, training might just have to wait until next year.

Unless the organization happens to be the Medford School District.

On Monday night, the Medford School Board voted 5-1 to approve cutting two more days of instruction for middle- and high-school students so teachers can attend a two-day conference on Professional Learning Communities. PLC training teaches staff to work as cohesive teams with the goal of improving school achievement and student learning.

Sounds great. And it only costs $75,000 for 250 staff members to attend, because the conference will be held in Medford. Granted, that's far less than it would cost if the training were out of town and the district had to pay travel expenses.

But the two-day conference means canceling two days of classes in January. Oregon already has the dubious distinction of having one of the shortest school years in the nation.

Students lose two days of classes, but classified employees will work — and will be paid — even though no students will be present. That doesn't seem to make much sense.

Superintendent Phil Long says those workers might offer their services to elementary schools on those days, which suggests there won't be enough for them to do at their usual jobs.

We are well aware of the value of professional development training. Mail Tribune staff members have been known to attend professional conferences, and to benefit from them.

That hasn't happened as often lately. When times get lean, the training budget is one of the first to get trimmed.

That's unfortunate, but it's the way most organizations deal with hard times. Outside training is valuable, but it's not essential.

The core function of a school district is to instruct students. When the district is able to balance its budget without cutting school days or increasing class sizes, outside training will be well worth considering.

Until then, the district should bite the bullet along with everyone else.

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