The committee had agreed on a single calendar at their meeting last week, but feedback from teachers and parents complicated their decision.
The group was split on a school start date of Aug. 1 or Aug. 5 for the 2013-14 school year and a Jan. 3 or Jan. 6 return date for teachers the second semester. Hinojosa will consider the recommendations and take them before the school board for discussion at their Oct. 10 work session and approval at the Oct. 25 night meeting.
The Aug. 1 start date would allow for a week-long fall break sometime in September or October and a week-long Thanksgiving break. An Aug. 5 start date would decrease either of those by two days.
Bringing teachers back into the classroom for a work day on Jan. 4, 2014, would allow students and staff to have a winter break Feb. 14 through Feb. 18, 2014. Pushing that return date to Jan. 6 would take away the Feb. 14 day off.
The dates for each school calendar that remained the same include the holiday break beginning Dec. 23, 2013; spring break being March 31, 2014, through April 4, 2014; and the last day of school on May 21, 2014. Dates for the 2014-15 calendar would reflect similar breaks.
The group was split on their decision to recommend just one calendar like they did at their meeting last week after getting feedback from their school communities.
The group participated in a few activities to try to come to a final draft. The first was to list some of the positives expressed about the draft calendar.
They were, “Shorter summers help with knowledge retention,” “fall break for full week,” “love the group process” and “consider student needs.”
They did the same activity when determining complaints about the draft calendar.
These included “Aug. 1 start date too early,” “consider temperature,” “shorter fall break to four-day weekend,” “too many breaks” and “submit two or three calendars to the board, including the traditional calendar.”
Each member talked briefly about his or her feedback from the school communities, and many reported contradicting responses.
For instance, Kennesaw Mountain teacher Coy Dunn said all the teachers he spoke to were in favor of an Aug. 1 start date.
However, parent Sarah Regitz, who was selected by the East Cobb County Council to sit on the committee, said the 144 parents and 100 teachers she polled were not happy with the earlier start date.
Committee member and acting SPLOST director Glen Brown agreed with Regitz on the later start date.
He spoke for more than 10 minutes about the importance of summer for construction. If the board approves the draft calendar as it is, his construction timeline will be reduced from 81 days like last summer to 70 for 2013.
“Before a student can achieve, he has to be engaged,” he said. “Our construction is going to cause confusion.”
Brown said he wants to have a school “ready to go” when teachers return a week before students.
“Construction is going to affect achievement, attendance and morale,” he said.
Other committee members talked about the community’s response to weeklong breaks for the fall and winter terms.
Of the 116 emails Cobb Schools parent Kevin Jabbari received, only five expressed discontent with the longer breaks.
“Teachers wanted that week-long break in the fall,” said Jabbari, who was appointed by the Tom Mathis Sr. Council.
After hearing from everyone, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Hungerford and Chief of Staff Dr. Angela Huff, who served as the group’s facilitators, determined that they weren’t going to be able to present just one calendar to Hinojosa and decided on two separate calendars for the fall semester and two for spring.
After the meeting, Hungerford said the district could conduct a survey of all parents and teachers but that it could be too expensive considering the district’s budget concerns.
She said the committee overcame biases concerning a traditional versus balanced calendar.
“People do have opinions about (the calendar), but I really and truly feel like this committee did their best to go out and talk to as many people,” she said. “Their outreach was pretty tremendous. Yes, they probably had some opinions about the calendar, but they were also doing their homework to see what the people they represented wanted.”
The group consists of eight parents, two community representatives, five central office staff members and six local school employees.
The eight parents, who were selected by the 9th District PTA Council, are Regitz and Abby Shiffman, with the East Cobb County Council; Rob Stanek and Lisa Miller, Jessye Coleman Council; Brandi O’Reilly and Jabbari, Tom Mathis Sr. Council; and Carolyn Pusey-Wade and Janis Stevenson, South Cobb Council.
The two community representatives, who were selected by Hinojosa, are Dr. Arlinda Eaton, dean of Kennesaw State University’s Bagwell College of Education; and Wayne Dodd, board of directors and South Cobb Council vice chairman at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce.
The five central office employees, who were selected by the senior staff, are John Stafford, graduation coordinator; Darryl York, director of policy development; Gary Markham, supervisor of band and orchestra; Brown; and Leanne Wood, assessment program manager.
The six local school employees, who were selected by area assistant superintendents, are Anthony Pearson, Mableton Elementary; Lisa Williams, Osborne High; Carole Brink, Dickerson Middle; Ed Wagner, Kell High; Dunn; and Cindy Stigall, Due West Elementary.
The group, which was approved by the Cobb school board last December, was formed to help determine which school calendar best suits the Cobb school district.