The next two school years won’t include a week off for Thanksgiving break and won’t include monthly early release days for elementary schools if the Muscogee County School Board approves the superintendent’s recommendation.
Those are the major changes from this year’s Muscogee County School District calendar to the proposed 2016-17 and proposed 2017-18 calendars the administration presented during the board’s work session Monday evening.
In the 2016-17 school year, the first day of classes would be Aug. 8 and the final day would be May 19. In the 2017-18 school year, the first day of classes would be Aug. 7 and the final day would be May 18.
The proposals are based on recommendations from the district’s calendar committee, representing all school levels and regions in the system, said assistant superintendent Rebecca Braaten. The 19-person committee comprised four teachers, three principals, five parents, one representative from a local postsecondary education institution, four district staff members and two representatives from surrounding jurisdictions (one from Phenix City, one from Harris County), according to a document attached to the agenda.
The Thanksgiving break would be Wednesday through Friday instead of the whole week. The committee’s rationale is that most parents aren’t off work that Monday and Tuesday, so the weeklong break for students who don’t have siblings old enough to take care of them was a burden for those parents to find childcare.
The monthly early release days were designed to give elementary school teachers time for planning and professional development. Thirty of the district’s 32 principals responded to a survey that shows 77 percent favor replacing the early release days with three full professional development days (one in August, October and January) and 43 percent said their school sometimes can’t take full advantage of early release days because students aren’t picked up on time because of “other circumstances.”
Eliminating the early release days would add 15 hours of instructional time to the elementary school schedule.
Naomi Buckner of District 4 and Frank Myers of District 8 are the only board members who voiced objections to the proposals.
Buckner wants the administration to give the board alternative calendars to vote on instead of one recommendation. “We had options last year,” she said.
She also said, “A lot of people have planned vacations based on that week of Thanksgiving.”
Myers’ concern was about not giving the public enough time and enough access to the proposals for board members to hear from their constituents before they vote on the calendars next Monday.
“This is what we get paid to do, to represent people,” Myers said.
Based on Myers’ request, MCSD chief information officer Ronald Pleasant agreed to post links to the proposed calendars on the first page of the district’s website.
Myers asked if that could be done by “noon tomorrow.”
“Hopefully sooner,” Pleasant replied.
Board chairman Rob Varner of District 5 said, “This is my eighth year of going through the exact same discussion, which tells me you can’t make everyone happy. … The administration did a very good job bringing together 19 individuals. You just can’t put this out for thousands of people to vote on.”
Buckner later countered, “When we can satisfy the most people, I think that’s what we should be striving for.”
The agenda’s personnel report includes the following moves:
· Amy Wohler, the School Improvement Grant administrator at Jordan Vocational High School, is on temporary assignment as the interim principal at Jordan, where Alton White resigned to become principal of LaGrange High School.
· Dana Thompson, director of the district’s Early Success Centers, has resigned. The reason is to move out of state, MCSD human resources chief Kathy Tessin told the Ledger-Enquirer.
· Brenda Badura, principal of Arnold Magnet Academy, will resign in June. The reason is personal, Tessin said.
· Anthony Jordan, assistant principal at Arnold Magnet Academy, will retire in June.