Vincent wins round one – Martin: two calendars or everyone year-round

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Olivia Bearden, a student at Vincent Middle/High who has endured much in her battle with cancer, took up another fight last Thursday night.

She and some 200 parents, teachers and students from Vincent caravanned, waved signs and made statements to the Shelby County Board of Education to keep Vincent’s year-round calendar of the past 12 years from becoming a thing of the past.

And in the end, they won, at least, a temporary victory.

On a motion by School Board Vice President Steve Martin and a second by School Board member Anne Glass, the board voted 3-2 to table the approval of one calendar for the entire school system.

That one calendar would have ended year-round school in Vincent.

As part of his motion, Martin directed School Superintendent Evan Major to return with proposals for two separate calendars, one for Vincent schools and one for the other schools in the system.

The other alternative, he directed, should be one year-round calendar for the entire system.

Voting with Martin were School Board members Peg Hill and Glass. Against tabling the calendar issue were board president Dr. Lee Doebler and Dr. David Nichols.

Immediately following the meeting, Major said he did not know what he was going to do. But he did acknowledge Martin’s request for two calendars.

One calendar for the entire school system had been a request from Major, however, to the school calendar committee.

He stressed many times the need for one calendar for one system.

&uot;We’re a school system, not a system of schools,&uot; he said.

Members of the Vincent community said their year-round calendar has become an integral part of life in the small Shelby County community.

&uot;We love our year-round calendar. It allows us time for educational trips where we learn life skills,&uot; said a tearful Bearden.

She said one example is the Wolf Pack, a group that travels to Special Olympic meets in the area.

&uot;If you change our calendar, we won’t get to go. We won’t get to have these experiences. This calendar is one of the best things that’s ever happened in Vincent.&uot;

She continued pleading with the board members: &uot;One thing my parents have taught me is not to fix something when it’s not broken. Our calendar is not really broken. If there is any possible way we can keep our calendar, please let us keep it.&uot;

Vincent Middle/High Principal Gary Minnick said, &uot;Who in Shelby County is most qualified to make judgments about which calendar is better? Anyone who has lived under just one is not qualified to make that decision.&uot;

He pointed out that provisions have been made in Alabama for year-round school. And he recommended a 185-day calendar for Vincent.

&uot;I’m here to talk about what’s in the best interest of the children at my school,&uot; he said.

Tricia Corbett, principal at Vincent Elementary School, added, &uot;I don’t have to tell you how passionate this community is about this.&uot;

The reason, she said, &uot;It’s good for our children.&uot;

&uot;We don’t think it’s right we have to prove a year-round calendar works when the rest of the county doesn’t have to prove a traditional calendar works. Why can’t the rest of the county move more in our direction instead of us moving closer (to a traditional calendar)?&uot;

She said the traditional calendar was adopted when more people were farmers so children could have summers off and help their families, but it doesn’t apply to a community like Vincent today.

Another Vincent resident said, &uot;If the goal of this administration is to make all schools the same, it will take more than a two week break in the fall and spring.

&uot;Where is your data that Vincent students will perform better on a traditional calendar?&uot;

Scott Smith recommended that the board &uot;solicit parent involvement.&uot;

&uot;Take some time to talk to parents. Send a note home with kids,&uot; he said. &uot;I challenge you as a board to do the right thing, not just the expedient thing.&uot;

While Spence Payne, a fifth grade teacher at Vincent Elementary, did not speak to the board, he expressed his thoughts in a note to Corbett.

&uot;Reflecting upon our possible schedule change, I realize the general public does not understand what a ‘year-round’ schedule is.

&uot;We attend school the exact same number of days as every other school. We are absent from school the exact number of days as every other school. Our schedule is simply divided differently.&uot;

Payne said the original year-round school for Vincent was nine weeks on and three weeks off. That schedule has been tampered with during the past two years, he said.

He said over the break teachers calculate the students’ grades. And in the past, students who made below a certain level were given letters to attend a week or two of tutoring. Also during breaks, Vincent Elementary has a three-week camp called Camp Stinger.

Major said the school calendar committee functioned but acknowledged input from so many people about the proposed calendar resulted in changes until just hours before the school board was to meet.

He said of all the commentary, &uot;Thank God we live in a country that can do this.&uot;

He also agreed with Minnick that more school days are needed, not just for Vincent but the entire county.

Martin concluded, &uot;People are smarter than government. The Vincent calendar has brought about pride in the community … People like it. If we want to make everything the same in Shelby County, let’s get one mascot (for all the schools).&uot;

While Major said he did not know what he would do last Thursday night, he said the board would return to the issue to vote during the board’s meeting in February.

Candace Parker contributed to this story