Education

MCSD board members criticize proposed school year calendar

A week before the Muscogee County School Board is scheduled to vote on next school year’s calendar, board members balked at the administration’s recommendation and asked for another option.

Spring break being a week earlier than this year was the main complaint about the proposed 2015-16 calendar superintendent David Lewis’ administration presented to the board at Monday evening’s work session. The proposed March 14-18 spring break – which would be during winter, District 4 representative Naomi Buckner noted – is the same on the two calendar options the administration sent to approximately 3,000 school-based personnel in a survey.

The differences between Option A and Option B are when the school year would start, when teachers would have professional development days and whether the district would have a fall break.

Option A starts the school year for teachers July 27 and for students Aug. 3, has two planning days at the end of the school year and has a fall break Oct. 9-12. Option B starts the school year Aug. 3 for teachers and Aug. 6 for students, has five planning days at the end of the school year and doesn’t have a fall break.

Out of the 1,309 employees who responded, 690 (53 percent) chose Option A and 609 (47 percent) chose Option B, Braaten said.

Buckner objected.

“They chose the lesser of two evils,” she said.

Braaten explained why the administration proposed the March 14-18 spring break. The six-week window for school districts to administer the state’s standardized tests, called the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, begins the first week of April. If spring break were after testing, it would be too late, in mid-May, Braaten said. So it has to be before testing, she said.

If spring break were the last week of March, she said, it would give MCSD only one day to prepare before testing starts. And the administration doesn’t want to schedule spring break the same week it was this year, Braaten said, because that’s when the Georgia Department of Education conducts one of its two annual enrollment counts, which determines how much funding school districts receive from the state, and staff must be on call to handle questions about discrepancies, she said.

“We don’t want to leave any money on the table,” Braaten said.

After an extended discussion, board member Shannon Smallman of District 7 suggested the administration survey the school-based personnel again and ask them to choose between calendars that are the same as Option A except for different spring breaks, either March 14-18 or March 21-25. Braaten said she would send the survey out this week and the administration will ask the board to vote next Monday.

Board members Mark Cantrell of District 6 and at-large representative Kia Chambers expressed more concern about starting school so early. Braaten explained that the survey results favored having a fall break and the district must end the semester before winter break so students don’t take finals in January.

Notable departures

The April personnel report includes notice of some notable departures:

Lyn Anderson, finance director for the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, plans to retire in August.

Carol Mashburn, assistant principal at Dorothy Height Elementary School, plans to retire in June.

Kristen Zohn, collections and exhibitions director at the Columbus Museum, resigned to become executive director at the Costume Society of America, which is headquartered in Columbus.

PROPOSED 2015-16 MCSD CALENDAR HIGHLIGHTS

July 27-31: Teacher planning

Aug. 3: First day of classes

Sept. 7: Labor Day (district closed)

Sept. 18: Teacher planning and professional development; no school for students.

Oct. 6: Elementary school early release

Oct. 9-12: Fall break (no school for students and teachers)

Nov. 3: Elementary school early release

Nov. 11: Veterans Day (district closed)

Nov. 23-27: Thanksgiving break (district closed)

Dec. 8: Elementary school early release

Dec. 21-Jan. 1: Winter break (district closed)

Jan. 4-5: Teacher planning and professional development; no school for students.

Jan. 18: Martin Luther King Jr. Day (district closed)

Feb. 9: Elementary school early release

Feb. 15: Presidents Day (no school for students and teachers)

March 8: Elementary school early release

March 14-18 or March 21-25: Spring break (district closed)

April 5: Elementary school early release

May 19: Last day of classes

May 19-21: High school graduations

May 20 and 23: Teacher planning

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