Group gives four drafts of calendar to Hinojosa
by Lindsay Field
August 30, 2012 01:22 AM | 7088 views | 28 28 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa <br> File photo
Cobb superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa
File photo
slideshow
MARIETTA — After meeting for more than two hours and not coming to a group consensus, the 21 members of the Cobb County calendar committee agreed to submit two options per semester for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years to Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa.

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.
Comments
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Cobb native
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August 31, 2012
What needs to be seen is some real statistics that prove the assertions that the multiple breaks every other week really work. I do not think they can show that they do. Anyone that wants to do something well, learn something really well knows there cannot be long breaks. Look at the sports teams or bands. We have some of the best of each in our county. They do not practice for 3 weeks then take a week off, practice another 2 weeks and then take more time off. They have to practice, practice, practice to maintain a high level of performance. The same logic should apply to academics. I can assure you that only people that work for the govenment get lots of time off during a work year in the grown up world of work. Our Country was founded on hard work and it needs to be taught to the young. Not that there are breaks all the time. What do they thin a weekend is?

These folks are trying to ram this down our throats without providing any real statistics. I mean really, how many people are going to say no when asked if they would like more breaks during a year.
Pro Parent
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September 10, 2012
Look at Cherokee County Schools. Proven record of higher test scores on state and national tests.

Fall and Winter breaks allow students and teachers the mental breaks they need and allow them to come back refreshed and ready to learn. The shortened summer is also proven to assist students in maintaining knowledge.

This calendar is not more time off as suggested by Cobb Native. It is reducing summer by two weeks and adding that time off during the year.

This calendar will also improve attendance of students and eliminate teacher call offs.
So Simple
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August 31, 2012
A calendar that carries over from year to year without debate - Begin after Labor Day and end the first week of June. Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Spring Break and it's over.

The actions of this superintendent, board and panel is enough to make one scream for commom sense. The students need time to retain what is being taught; not jumping up every few weeks for breaks.

Why is it so important to start the 1st day of August? What will the students gain from this atrocious date? What satisfaction will the super, board and panel gain by approving it?

Please stop the bickering and apply yourselves to what is important for our students! Please stop being an embarrasment to Cobb County! Oh - And I wasn't asked for any feedback. How may people did each board and panel member ask? Just curious.
tired of it
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August 31, 2012
Why is it so important to start after Labor Day and end the first week of June?
Cobb021498
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September 03, 2012
I agree! Constant breaks are nothing more than disruptions in learning - please get a traditional calendar and leave it alone! By the way, I have never been included in one of these "polls".
Cobb Teacher
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August 30, 2012
No one asked my opinion and I am a certified teacher in Cobb. I am most definitely NOT in favor of an August 1st start date. I do not understand why we have to finish everything before Memorial Day. Why not end in early June? Personally, I would rather nix the fall break and take two days from Thanksgiving Break to have a long weekend around Columbus Day. Another long weekend around President's Day would also be greatly appreciated. Would be happy to extend the school year by two extra days. Or in lieu of this, let me have 5 personal days to take when I wish.
Ask Raleigh...
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August 30, 2012
Ask the folks of Raleigh, NC how much they love (not) year-round schools. There are families there that have next door neighbors that are on a different calendar at the same school. These are all bad ideas. Stop trying to fix something that ain't broke!!!
EC Mom
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August 30, 2012
Better be more concerned about the number of days that we actually educate than the dates on which we do. You cannot tell me that it is more cost effective to have children in school on Aug 1, but then again, our county does little to become energy efficient. All of this malarky makes me think school vouchers are a good idea.
Just Sayin....
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August 30, 2012
"Cobb Crazy" needs to run for school board!!!! I totally agree!!! Personally I would like to see the school year and/or day lengthened a little. Our children are not getting what they need to be competitive in this world. In addition, I really do not care what breaks will fall when, I can plan accordingly no matter when they are. Third, and probably most importantly, I hope Dr. Hinojosa finally sees that his staff cannot move forward with even the simplest of assignments. The executives who punted this decision up to him should be fired immediately for being unable to make a decision.
Voice of Reason
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August 30, 2012
Ok, since the Cobb County School Board is ineffectual & inept at making and voting on school calendars,Y not eliminate their pay and give them all crossword puzles = then they may be more effective! The answer: Spend more money on the outside of schools ather than developing critical thinking adults.
Mike O. Bedenbaugh
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August 30, 2012
Is this a job for educators to have a weeks break every month and a half or are they working during these weeks in school? I know teachers that have to recertify every so often to teach and others that are taking educational courses to futher their degrees for advancement in education- promotions. I agree the BOTTOM LINE IS TO EDUCATE THE CHILDREN FOR THEIR FUTURE WHETHER IN COLLEGE OR THE JOB MAQRKET TO MAKE A LIVING!!!!!
Mom of Two
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August 30, 2012
The teachers that I've heard in favor of the breaks have vacation plans. This does not mean some would not seek certification courses. Others may tutor students for a fee. In the John Hopkins study, the at risk children received tutoring on the break weeks at no cost to the family. The teachers were paid for their time to tutor, don't recall if that was from the school system or a grant.
Mom of Two
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August 30, 2012
For the record, my children attend a private school that starts late August and the school has no plans to follow Cobb County with an earlier start. I have several concerns with the early start and multiple breaks. We already see kids that are not taught to follow through with obligations. Children seldom complete the season with any given sport these days. What long term purpose do these multiple breaks serve other than to reinforce the lackadaisical attitude toward life? The multiple breaks certainly will not prepare a high school student for college or a job in any field. Coca-Cola Enterprises allows FIVE holidays and one week of vacation after a year on the job. I use this company as an example because it employs both unskilled and skilled labor. For the frequent breaks to increase test scores the breaks (as cited in the John Hopkins research) must be used to tutor those students that are struggling AND the breaks must come evenly spaced, i.e. one week every 10 weeks - throws quite the kink in family plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The study is also clear, test scores rise when the number of instruction days increases.
Cobb Teacher
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August 30, 2012
The "multiple breaks" do not affect the length of the school year. It simply spreads the summer break around. Teachers are paid only for the days they work, so they get paid the same regardless of the schedule. Most adults grew up with shorter school years and longer summer vacations. Did that make them unprepared to take on year round jobs? We're talking about KIDS who NEED breaks. Schools are pressure cookers - more so with each passing year. People keep saying that the teachers want the breaks. But we want them in large part because the kids need them.
Just Wait
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August 30, 2012
The Superintendent should create a calendar that best suits the needs of the students to learn. The Board, teachers and parents should stop whining and accept it. Teaching kids is the ONLY reason that should be considered.
goal of this crowd
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August 30, 2012
The deal is year-round school. No one is honest enough to just say it. Instead, every year everyone goes through the motions of the school calendar. Just cancel summer,and while you are at it, be sure and start serving dinner to the students whose parents don't find it convenient to pick them up. Cots, also. Test scores will probably rocket!
Cobb Crazy
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August 30, 2012
I have lived in several states and I have never heard so much talk or have seen so much energy wasted on a calendar. We have teachers losing their jobs, oversize classrooms and schools that look like they have been open for 50 years instead of 10. Would you please get your priorities straight. You don't realize how dumb this looks.
K Euston
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August 30, 2012
Amen.
K. Euston
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August 30, 2012
Two words matter - Student Achievement. I urge Dr. Hinojosa and the school board to compare the Cobb County ITBS and CRCT test results during the "balanced calendar year" compared with other years. Student achievement and test scores were higher when there were less breaks. A longer summer break gives students and teachers time to attend summer programs or work on advanced degrees. Boy Scouts can attend national and international programs which are usually held the last week of July/first week of August. The calendar issue needs to be dropped once and for all. I wish the citizens of Cobb would have as much passion about larger class sizes, increased furlough days and the lack of textbooks for all students in some schools. Please focus on what matters - the students and teachers. Focus your energy there and not on the opportunity to vacation during "non-peak" times.
Bzymom23
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August 30, 2012
Wake up! This IS about the children and what's best for achievement!@@ When the balanced calendar was in place, ITBS and CRCT scores did rise, attendance was down, moral was up, and money was saved - money that we desperately need to stop increased class sizes and furlough days!! You need to check your facts! You state that student achievement is highest when there are fewer breaks but you don't address the fact that long summers = decreased retention!!! You state that energy should NOT be focused on the opportunity to vacation but yet go on about Boy Scouts and International programs. I don't see the difference. Your statements are contradictory. If you have the right to attend a Scouting event, other parents have the right to take a vacation if they determine they need one. Don't you think families DO vacation in summer?? And, why oh why oh WHY must you assume that parents want breaks for vacationing? What about resting, catching up, spending quality time, re-energizing?? The only thing that you said that makes any sense is that we need to focus on what matters, and that is exactly what this committee is trying to do. I, for one, am grateful to them and hope we can put this to bed once and for all.
Lucy E. Williamson
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August 30, 2012
To Bzymom23:

Utilities are not dependent upon when students are in school, the percentage of students who excelled on the ITBS and CRCT increased by almost double during last school year and attendance has nothing to do with the calendar. It has to do with parents being responsible and taking their children to school. If you're talking about teacher attendance, they had a break during the summer and should also be responsible enough to be in school when their students are. All of this data can be found in testing reports from the state department and by speaking to central office employees.
@Bzymom23
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August 30, 2012
You compared the scores? 2010-2011 to 2011-2012? Scores were better for 2011-2012, not acknowledging this shows that you are not being honest in your post or with yourself.

It is not less expensive for students to attend school in the summer. Again, you are not being honest.

Stop for just a moment and think about how the District had to scramble the year of the balanced calendar to get schools opened on time because there wasn't enough summer time to finish construction projects. In fact, had school opened the first week of August that year, we would have had students attending unfinished schools. Is that what you want? So focused on time off and vacations you are willing to risk student safety?

This is about education, not vacation.
To Bzymom
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August 30, 2012
The highest ranking schools in the USA do NOT take breaks. They have traditional, school beginning after Labor Day, calendars, exams after the holiday break, and end school in June. I have NEVER heard of any school distrioct spending so much time on a calendar. How about making a plan for the budget that will give our teachers their 2% back and lower class sizes?
Oh well
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August 30, 2012
I can only hope reason prevails and the earlier start date, that never was given a fair chance, prevails....
anonymous
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August 30, 2012
Might have been helpful to publish names and contact info before they met, and direct people to share concerns.

As a teacher in Cobb, there was not one email sent to staff on any aspect of this committee.or listing contact info or asking people to generate a response. Emails are free.

In addition, I've been to open houses at two schools, and receive electronic emails from PTA. There was mention of this committee or any effort to get opinions. Again, emails are free, and a simple paper ballot is also easy to provide and process.

You can't please everyone, but PLEASE listen to Glen Brown. He has no axe to grind here. Anyone remember the construction fiascos the year we started early? How many teachers are able to start August 1st in unfinished classrooms? Noise of construction? Some of us have experienced this, and it is a disaster for the students learning as well as everyone's health.

IceDogg
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August 30, 2012
But you see, Anonymous, if they actually published their contact information before they met, they would have to consider the feedback from the Cobb majority - which clearly supports the traditional calendar - as opposed to their cherry-picked poll respondents.

100% of the teachers polled support the August 1 start date. Really? REALLY?

I personally know 5 teachers in Cobb schools and none of those 5 support it.

If you get a survey result of "100%" for anything, the survey is flawed.

The ONLY true method to resolve this is to present it to all of the voters of Cobb county. I personally guarantee the traditional calendar would prevail.
East Cobb parent
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August 30, 2012
I concur 100%!
East Cobb parent
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August 30, 2012
I also should add that when we switch to the balanced calendar the emphasis becomes vacation not education for many.

Furthermore, the teachers are rushed to complete their curriculum before each break and therefore try and cover material that they would ordinarily cover over a longer period of time. If they don't get through it, they pile it on the kids and often make the kids complete it over their "so called" break. Either the kids are going to have the additional time off or not? If not... then keep a traditional calendar or don't assign a bunch of work for them to complete on their break.

I do think there need to be more community input on the calendar decision.

On another note, how many furlow days do you expect these poor teachers to take? It's just crazy... no one else I know would work for free!
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