Some members of the calendar committee, which is composed of parents, staff members and district personnel, expressed frustration with board members, who they say have already rejected the panel’s findings even though they haven’t been presented yet.
“Do you feel like the board members are going into this with an open mind?” Lisa Miller with the Jessye Coleman Council in south Cobb asked at a Wednesday committee meeting. “I know three board members who have conveyed that they don’t like the calendar.”
Cobb Schools Superintendent Michael Hinojosa admitted board members had said they weren’t satisfied with the committee’s work.
“Look at me when I answer this: No,” he said. “I’m just doing what I’ve been asked to do and I’m presenting my best and I’m going to try and be as persuasive as I can.”
Hinojosa thanked them for their work, saying it was a difficult task that got “messy” and that his counterparts nationally were always surprised at how big of an issue the calendar has become in Cobb.
“Consensus decisions are messy, but they take time. … it’s democracy in action,” he said. “We’re trying to come up with the best recommendation that we can.”
During the 30-minute meeting, the committee scored their first two calendar recommendations, along with one Hinojosa was planning to present to the board.
Hinojosa’s proposal starts Aug. 7 with a break on Oct. 7 and 8.
Calendar “A,” which starts school either Aug. 1 or Aug. 4 with a week-long break in October, got the most points with 80, followed closely behind by Hinojosa’s calendar choice with a 73.
During the meeting, Abby Shiffman, a parent on the East Cobb County Council, recommended the board set a calendar at least a year out so families can prepare better for it and asked the district to consider a policy deterring the board from making changes in the middle of a calendar process.
Roughly three hours later, Hinojosa updated the school board on the committee’s process, recommendations and lack of consensus, after which each board member had an opportunity to give Hinojosa their feedback.
Lynnda Eagle asked if anyone from the committee would address the board about their recommendation, but of the five members in the audience, no one spoke up.
Board chair Scott Sweeney presented data that suggested that utility costs, attendance and student achievement weren’t affected by the school calendar, prompting Eagle to remind him that he made the calendar a platform issue when running for the school board in 2010.
“I just want to thank you for providing this information although I do find it unusual that this information was brought two years ago when you were one of the ones that wanted to change (the calendar),” Eagle said.
Sweeney responded with a “Thank you.”
David Banks presented his own calendar, which he is calling an “inverted calendar” and includes a weeklong break in both October and February.
“I’m representing my constituents,” he said, asking if the district could poll teachers or Parent-Teacher Association members to get more feedback.
No one supported his suggestion.
Tim Stultz recommended pushing back Hinojosa’s start date of Aug. 7 to Aug. 12, which would start school on the second Monday of the month like it has the last two school years, and starting the second semester on Jan. 3, 2014, so that teachers weren’t coming back for a work day the Tuesday after Memorial Day.
Alison Bartlett, who created a calendar she refers to as a “9-week calendar,” also said her proposal reflects her constituents’ wishes.
Hinojosa said he would come back in two weeks during the monthly night meeting with another agenda item, which the board will vote on.
After the meeting, Sweeney, vice chair David Morgan and Kathleen Angelucci said they didn’t know how they will vote.
“I’m obviously not going to go with the week break in October or February because that’s too many breaks, but I am looking at other options,” she said, adding that she was still interested in finding out more from the committee about what led to their recommendation to Hinojosa.
“All I heard was that they wanted breaks,” she said.