The school board last fall approved creating a committee to make recommendations on the oft-controversial issue. Committee members were chosen by Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa, district staff and parent-teacher groups.
The panel is to meet two more times this month, and by Aug. 29 is to make a recommendation to Hinojosa, who could then make a recommendation to the Cobb school board this fall for the 2013-2014 and 2014-15 calendars.
Hinojosa’s chief of staff, Dr. Angela Huff, and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Hungerford facilitated the two-hour meeting last Wednesday. Hinojosa addressed the group early in the meeting, and stayed about 30 minutes.
“I feel like if we can make our best case, a group this big, this powerful with this kind of representation, that we can have the support that we need, with whatever recommendation we come up with,” Hinojosa told the committee. “Ultimately it will be up to the school board.”
The group came up with its top five priorities. At the top is having breaks around late September/early October, and again in February.
The other priorities are: ending the first semester at the winter holiday break; considering testing schedules; ending the year on a Wednesday for graduation purposes; and considering the district’s budget and the economy when creating the calendar.
Darryl York, Cobb’s policy director, and John Stafford, the district’s graduation coordinator, will draft several possible calendars before the committee meets again Aug. 22.
Each activity sparked a lot of conversation.
While the group was talking about how morale may affect teacher attendance and student achievement, Glen Brown, the district’s acting director of SPLOST, asked if the current traditional calendar affected all teachers’ morale, or just a few.
Parent Brandi O’Reilly, appointed by the north Cobb PTA council, said: “I basically would love to ask the teachers, ‘What makes you the happiest?’ because if they’re happy, then they’re at school and they’re teaching my kid.”
York asked if a student’s happiness and achievement is defined by fall and winter breaks.
Robb Stanek, a parent from southeast Cobb, said: “Achievement to me is my student being happy in school, wanting to go to school, not being burned out on school. It’s defined by frequent breaks.”
Parent Lisa Miller, also of southeast Cobb, said: “We need to look at the data … discipline, test scores, absenteeism,” said. “I want to make sure (the calendar) is based on real data, not just the whims of everybody. I want to make sure it’s a very thoughtful process.”
The 21 members were named last spring. The committee includes eight parents, two community representatives, five central office employees and six local school employees.
The eight parents, who were selected by the PTA Council, are Sarah Regitz and Abby Shiffman, of east Cobb; Stanek and Miller, of southeast Cobb; O’Reilly and Kevin Jabbari, of north Cobb; and Carolyn Pusey-Wade and Janis Stevenson, of south Cobb.
The two community representatives, who were selected by Hinojosa, are Dr. Arlinda Eaton, dean of Kennesaw State University’s education college, and Wayne Dodd, a member of the Cobb Chamber’s board of directors.
Besides Stafford, York and Brown, other central-office employees on the committee, who were selected by the senior staff, are Gary Markham, supervisor of band and orchestra; and Leanne Wood, assessment program manager.
The six school employees on the committee were selected by area assistant superintendents. They are Coy Dunn, Kennesaw Mountain High drama teacher and the district’s 2011 teacher of the year; Anthony Pearson, Mableton Elementary; Lisa Williams, Osborne High; Carole Brink, Dickerson Middle; Ed Wagner, Kell High; and Cindy Stigall, Due West Elementary.
Jabbari and Pearson missed Wednesday’s meeting.
The Aug. 22 and Aug. 29 meetings will be held in the boardroom on Glover Street in Marietta between 2 and 4 p.m. They are open to the public.