Calendar controversy continues

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The end of two separate school calendars for Shelby County … one for year-round Vincent Schools and one for the rest of the school system … could be at hand.

When the Shelby County Board of Education meets Thursday, Jan. 27, one school calendar for the whole school system will be on the agenda.

School Superintendent Evan Major said with no school starting before Aug. 8 there is &uot;no rationale&uot; for Vincent to have a separate calendar from the rest of the system.

While the Aug. 8 start date is not a requirement, Major said, &uot;When my state superintendent and the state board of education make a request, it is like my boss making a request.

&uot;All but two or three school systems in the state take that request very seriously. It is an important request,&uot; he said.

Major also noted, &uot;We are a school system, not two systems. It’s time we get one calendar and move forward.&uot;

Major said the two calendars were already close.

He also noted that moving spring break three weeks into April will allow two more weeks for teaching.

Splitting fall break allows two more days for Thanksgiving for those who must travel farther to be with family, he said.

Major said response to surveys range from those in support of the proposed calendar, those who would like to see a fall and spring break and those Vincent parents who feel the school system is taking away what they’ve had the last several years.

Patricia Corbett, principal at Vincent Elementary, served on the 2005-06 calendar committee and sees things differently.

She said she opposes the proposed calendar because the Vincent community last year &uot;really made a big step&uot; in moving to a modified calendar.

&uot;We thought the rest of the system was going to make a compromise and meet us in the middle and that was not what happened,&uot; she said.

She said the proposed calendar does not have a week in the fall and has one week in the spring, when Vincent was accustomed to two weeks.

&uot;There was a calendar committee of 19 people. I know the three from Vincent were not in favor of this calendar,&uot; she said.

School Board member Peg Hill recognized Major’s desire to see the school system on one calendar.

But, she said, &uot;In order to do that fairly, I think we need to bring this year’s calendar (already in use) closer to Vincent’s.&uot;

Hill said she did not feel the proposed calendar (2005-06) accommodates Vincent’s calendar nearly as closely as the school system’s current calendar.

At this point, she said, she is opposed to the proposed calendar because results of the school system survey have shown concerns about the fall break being dropped and spring break being pushed farther into April. A fall break for teachers and students was added to the system’s calendar just this past year.

Hill also said the Aug. 8 start date is suggested by the state, not required.

She suggested, however, that teachers could come in on the fourth and fifth of August and students not come until Aug. 8.

She explained there could also still be a fall break and a week at Thanksgiving.

She said that would more accommodate Vincent’s nine-weeks-on and two-weeks-off calendar.

In the current (2004-05) calendar for Shelby County Schools other than Vincent, there was a fall break Oct. 11-15 during which schools were closed but administrative offices remained open.

Under the proposed calendar for all schools, the October break is eliminated with Oct. 13, a professional development/collaboration day without students; Oct. 14, a teacher workday without students; and Oct. 17, schools closed.

Under the old schedule the Thanksgiving break was Nov. 24-26 with schools and offices closed.

Under the proposed schedule the Thanksgiving break is extended two additional days with schools closed Nov. 21-25.

Under the old schedule, spring break was March 21-25 with schools and offices closed.

Under the proposed schedule, spring break is pushed back to April 17-21 with schools and offices closed.

According to a report from the 2005-06 calendar committee, considerations for the new calendar included a request by Major that all Shelby County Schools be on one calendar as well as a request from the state superintendent that the first day of school be no earlier than Aug. 8.

Other considerations were that the high school semester exams be completed (first semester) by the December holidays and that each nine-week grading period be followed by time for professional development and planning.

According to the committee’s &uot;rationale,&uot; changes in the October break were made to give time for professional development, collaboration and planning at the end of the first grading period, to give students and teachers some form of a small fall break, to provide a break at time when discipline referrals tend to peak and to move the fall break so that high school students could take the PSAT test on Oct. 12.

Changes in the Thanksgiving holidays were made to move some days given in the previous fall break to a time not usually as instructionally advantageous due to absences and attitude and also to allow time for family travel.

The April break is held to move the spring break back after most standardized tests are given to allow more teaching time before tests and to provide a break for students and teachers

when weather is better for family acitivities, according to the committee.

The committee included co-chairmen Susan Hyatt, Shelby County Education Association President, and Dr. David Nichols, school board member.

Members of the committee

included Sondra Beck, principal at Thompson Intermediate; Lisa Beckham, professional development; Lewis Brooks, principal at Thompson Intermediate; Andrea Burk, a parent/teacher at Helena Elementary; Patricia Corbett, principal at Vincent Elementary; Charlotte Draper, assistant superintendent of instruction; Tim Evans, teacher at Oak Mountain High; Signa Ferguson, payroll supervisor; Randy Fuller, principal at Oak Mountain High; Dale Good, parent; Kevin Lindley, teacher at Vincent Elementary; Luisa MacPherson, program area specialist (gifted/advanced programs); JoAnn Marsch, parent; Donna Morris, counselor at Chelsea and Shelby County high schools; Theoangelo Perkins, mayor of Harpersville and Vincent High bus driver; Susan Seng, supervisor of guidance, counseling and testing; and Cindy Warner, supervisor of community education and public relations.

In the committee’s final words, &uot;While we tried to develop a calendar that would meet all needs, no one calendar can, obviously satisfy everyone.&uot;

The Shelby County Board of Education has posted an e-mail address on its website for those who would like to comment on the proposed schedule which is also available for viewing at the board’s site,

The address for comments is