Last month’s surprising vote by the Cobb Board of Education to dump the balanced calendar after less than a year and return to a traditional calendar may not be the last word in the county’s calendar wars. The school calendar may be discussed at today’s school board work session.
A balanced calendar is a shorter summer with more breaks during the year. My system is also on a balanced calendar, and we go back this year on Aug. 1. Like Cobb, we had week-long breaks in the early fall and last month. Cobb was in the first of three-year trial with its balanced calendar when the school board abandoned the model.
Not all board members were in agreement. And there are some unhappy parents as well.
Board member David Banks has asked for the balanced calendar to be reconsidered. “I asked for a ‘Discussion to rescind the Calendar vote made at the Feb. 17th Board meeting’ be put on the March 9 Board Work Session agenda and it has been placed on the agenda,” he writes in his newsletter to parents.
He also wrote:
With the Board’s vote to change the school calendar to a later August start date, I and other Board members have received over 2,000 emails with over 72 percent of those emails in favor of the “Balanced Calendar.” As most of you know there is a tremendous amount of research information supporting the Balanced calendar or a calendar resembling a Balanced calendar.
A parent also shared a letter with me that she wrote to SACS about the conduct of four Cobb board members in moving so quickly to change the calendar.
The recent school calendar discussions took place from February 9, 2011 to February 17, 2011. In the past, the opportunity for public notice and input was lengthy and took place over many, many months. The community appears to be very distressed at the rush to judgment in changing the school calendar and the lack of substantiated data to make a calendar change at this time.
The Cobb Board of Education did not make a concerted effort to involve “hard to reach” stakeholders with the school calendar survey conducted from February 11-17, 2011, as it was delivered solely by email and internet access. Also, the survey was only available in English. With more than 40,000 students in the district qualifying for free and reduced lunch, and more than 8,000 students qualifying for ESOL services, it stands to reason a significant number of stakeholders were meaningfully excluded from access to the survey.
Of the stakeholders who responded to the survey, the results were overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining the 3-year commitment to the Balanced Calendar. Members of the Caucus of Four disregarded the survey results, failing to discuss the survey at the February 17, 2011, prior to voting.
Finally, the disregard of the public’s voice on the calendar issue has resulted in significant concern and press that casts a negative light on the district. Of special concern are comments made by the members of the Caucus of Four that misrepresent the utility costs involved and offend the public.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog