Calendar wars: DeKalb school board calls truce tonight with parents. Delays change to balanced calendar.

The DeKalb school board delayed a new calendar that would have brought kids back to classes earlier in the summer.  (AP Image)

The DeKalb school board delayed a new calendar that would have brought kids back to classes earlier in the summer. (AP Image)

The new DeKalb school board responded this evening to parental concerns about the haste with which the district adopted a balanced calendar, which features a shorter summer and more breaks during the year.

The board voted to delay the change to a balanced calendar, which had been favored by the former superintendent.

The “balanced” calendar approved by the old school board and now reversed by the new one lopped nearly two weeks off summer break and distributed the vacation days in fall and winter.

Former Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson said the new calendar was better because students forget too much over the long summer break. Surveys showed parents opposed the idea but two-thirds of teachers liked it.

The balanced calendar is followed by neighboring Decatur Schools. Public opinion there varies on the appeal of the calendar, which benefits families with flexibility to take vacations in the fall and winter.

The academic research shows no academic advantage to balanced calendars. Decatur adopted a balanced calendar under the rationale that it would be a recruiting tool as teachers preferred it in a district survey.

From DeKalb Schools:

At its April 1 meeting, the DeKalb County Board of Education voted to delay the implementation of the district’s balanced calendar until the 2014-15 school year. With it, the Board adopted a Traditional Calendar.

The proposed Traditional Calendar developed by the Calendar Committee contains the following features:

· 180 student-contact days;

· 189 teacher-contract days with the final day (Day 190) being comprised of four (two hours each/two per semester) conference nights during the year as scheduled by each local school;

· Takes into account state-designated testing windows and dates;

· Concludes the first semester before the Winter Break in December which prevents students from returning from the break with final exams and End of Course Tests; and

· Schedules Spring Break April 7-11, 2014.

The delay of implementation of the Balanced Calendar allows the district to explore additional calendar options and obtain further input from the community.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

87 comments Add your comment

Dekalbite

April 1st, 2013
9:18 pm

So they are forecasting “only 7% to 10% of staff leaving”. My goodness this is over 600 teachers. Wow! And they are satisfied with this? How detrimental for students. How can HR and Mr. Thurmond be satisfied with a figure that is so obviously out of line with other metro systems and so negative for students?

Comparing this to other metro area shows that the attrition rate for teachers in metro Atlanta averages around 4% a year (extrapolated from actual data over a ten year period of time – see link below). That means DeKalb’s attrition rate is forecasted to be double that of the metro area and no one on Thurmond’s team has a problem with that. The problems are reserved for the students, not the administrators. Look at the state study in Georgia regarding teacher attrition:
http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2010/09/20/state-study-suggests-georgia-teachers-are-not-fleeing-classroom-stability-highest-in-rural-areas/

Pride and Joy

April 1st, 2013
9:25 pm

“Two-thrids of teachers like the balanced calendar.”
AND
“Decatur adopted a balanced calendar under the rationale that it would be a recruiting tool as teachers preferred it in a district survey.”
See?
Schools are designed to accomodate teachers and employees, not children and families.
That’s what is wrong with most public schools. They don’t know who they work for.

Pride and Joy

April 1st, 2013
9:27 pm

“DeKalb’s attrition rate is forecasted to be double that of the metro area and no one on Thurmond’s team has a problem with that.”
***I sure don’t have a problem with that.***
Teachers are leaving because they don’t get more breaks in the winter? Twelve weeks of vacation isn’t convenient enough for them?
Well, good riddance…next!

mountain man

April 1st, 2013
9:27 pm

“Surveys showed parents opposed the idea but two-thirds of teachers liked it.”

Exactly what I have said before on this blog and teachers kept saying “no teacher I know of likes the balanced calendar”.

Rachelle

April 1st, 2013
9:33 pm

If you are part of the working class, more breaks means more unhappy employers. Women have a difficult time being seen as seriously committed to their jobs, if they have children in school. A shorter summer is a good thing both for kids, parents and employers.

bootney farnsworth

April 1st, 2013
9:36 pm

I like the balanced schedule, but this probably was a good strategic move the DeKalb B
OE

bu2

April 1st, 2013
9:41 pm

One thing I would like to see is all the public school districts (unless one is on an extreme balanced calendar) adopt the same spring break. Its a real inconvenience to many parents-those with children in public and private schools in different counties and teachers and school district employees who may work in one district but have children in another. School districts tend to do things in a vacuum with disregard for parents. 2 of the last 5 years DeKalb and APS have had spring breaks one week apart.

Off base

April 1st, 2013
9:51 pm

Pride and Joy… if you think teachers are leaving b/c they don’t like the balanced schedule you’re delusional. Teachers don’t like yearly pay cuts, working for a failing school system that’s on probation, having 4 superintendents in 4 years and a litany of other issues.

I it could be something like 10-12% of teachers leaving and Dekalb schools experiencing a brain-drain of teaching talent that has never been seen in Georgia. Unfortunately, it’s the students who lose out, but anyone that blames teachers for Dekalbs woes is seriously misguided. I’m not saying Dekalb has nothing but excellent teachers in every school, but there is a lot of talent in the halls of Dekalb’s schools that other systems would gladly gobble up.

Bernie

April 1st, 2013
10:01 pm

It’s April 1. No WRITTEN plan YET! From Mr. Thurmond as promised to the AJC. A Plan that was assured with a delivery date of March 15.

The Deal

April 1st, 2013
10:04 pm

I’m pretty sure that the “teachers” who voted for the balanced calendar are actually “certified staff”, which would include those in the Palace that Atkinson could bully into voting for it. Most of the classroom teachers I asked did not want the balanced calendar but, when it came down to it, really didn’t care about that as much as salary, step increases, retirement, and furlough days. A step in the right direction, thank you new board!

Dekalbite@Pride and Joy

April 1st, 2013
10:05 pm

Any business that has double the attrition of its key employees than other businesses in its same industry has a problem. Teachers are leaving because the compensation and working conditions are not as good as other metro school systems. This seems perfectly logical to me, but it is not a good situation for students.

teachermom

April 1st, 2013
10:10 pm

I call the teacher survey—suspicious. We were given a PAPER survey to fill out after the parent survey showed they were against a balanced calendar. We had to turn the survey right back in. Then the results were reported fast, I think it was the next day or so. I wondered how they could count paper surveys so quickly and also why they did not use SurveyMonkey. I do not know a single teacher who is for the balanced calendar.

cp

April 1st, 2013
10:12 pm

Pride and Joy: In a democracy, we get the government we deserve. DeKalb County has had the school board it deserved, since voters in the county kept electing those people. Your need to blame teachers in a self-important, “I pay your salary” way is ludicrous. Every good manager knows that when employees are happy and treated as professionals, they will go to great lengths to meet challenges. If you don’t believe that teachers become teachers because they want to make a difference in the lives of children, you are as clueless as your past school boards.

dekalbteacher

April 1st, 2013
10:14 pm

Is anyone else concerned about the ethics of leaders such as Howe?

At the March 11 board meeting, she acknowledged that there wasn’t enough SFA buy-in among teachers and that some schools didn’t need this literacy reform.

Today she admitted that the calendar survey was done hastily and the research provided by the admin. was dubious.

At what point does SACS or the governor become concerned that those informing Thurmond and making recommendations are lacking the ethics required of any educator? Am I the only one bothered by such silence under Atkinson’s reign? Does this mean that such leaders will remain equally compliant under Thurmond?

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

April 1st, 2013
10:21 pm

This is great news. It’s good to see that the Dekalb BOE is responsive to the concerns of parents, they are off to a good start. If teachers are leaving because they don’t like the traditional calendar, then good riddance. That is what they signed up for when they became teachers.

dekalbteacher

April 1st, 2013
10:36 pm

Mrs. Norman and Pride,

Teachers are not leaving because of the calendar, at least none I know.

I would be more concerned about the working conditions of teachers because these inevitably impact instruction.

Mandella1099

April 1st, 2013
10:43 pm

@The Deal

Maybe the teachers thought that while you were annoying them by asking their opinions about a calendar that YOU were trying to bully them into a specific calendar preference so they gave you the answers you wanted….

Outraged Mom

April 1st, 2013
10:43 pm

Teachers aren’t leaving because of the balanced calendar. They are leaving because there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Overcrowded classrooms, discipline issues, more paperwork and no raises in 6 years!

It will be the good teachers that leave. I hope they will have people who will want to teach but I am afraid of the caliber that might apply. Anyone with good sense would go elsewhere.

Mandella1099

April 1st, 2013
10:46 pm

@teachermom

Well then, I guess that because you don’t know a single teacher that supported a balanced calendar that some giant conspiracy must have taken place…

…you’re a teacher – deny ignorance

Dekalbite@This is Mrs. Norman Maine

April 1st, 2013
10:49 pm

“If teachers are leaving because they don’t like the traditional calendar, then good riddance”

They are not leaving because of the calendar. They are leaving because of poor compensation and lackof respect for their efforts. Why would anyone say good riddance to teachers who instruct their children and ensure they can read, write, compute, understand the natural world and what is necessary for good citizenship? I was always so grateful for the teachers that taught my child. I understood that a stable situation including low turnover at a school is what all children including my child need. This BOE has a very long way to go. They need to be extremely concerned about such a high rate of attrition. It’s like the canary in the coal mine.

Timmy

April 1st, 2013
10:49 pm

Ask most parents and teachers in counties who have had the balanced calendar for several years and they will tell you they like it VERY much. Breaks are good for both students and teachers, day care has turned into a non-issue, students have less time to get into trouble during the summer (fewer days). Even though studies have shown it does not necessarily improve learning, neither does in deter learning. That said, I believe the BOE has done the right thing in delaying it a year.

Dekalbparent

April 1st, 2013
10:53 pm

@Pride and Joy…tell us a little more about yourself, so we can more appropriately empathize with whatever would explain your cynical attitude…you’re way off base. Sadly, you are part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution. I can only hope you’re home schooling. (btw what is your pride and joy?)

concernedmom30329

April 1st, 2013
10:57 pm

bu2

most private schools have their breaks in early March which is a terribly expensive time for vacations, if you want to get warm, you have to go way South or to an Island or you can ski. Don’t ask public schools to change their breaks for privates.

carol 80

April 1st, 2013
11:11 pm

Teachers literally can’t afford to stay working in Dekalb! I know one teacher that refinanced her home after last year’s deep cuts in pay. Many private school jobs pay more than Dekalb does. What a switch.

The Deal

April 1st, 2013
11:20 pm

Oh, good, Mandella the troll is back! Stick with the issue being discussed instead of attacking me personally. You don’t know me or the teachers I talked to. Get a life.

Mandella1099

April 1st, 2013
11:31 pm

@The Deal

And the DSW II Mafia in you comes out – say anything they disagree with, and you are a troll or a member of the Palace.

How about you taking a break and focus on the issues tough guy. Its real easy for you to be a Keyboard Cowboy and call someone a troll when your entire existence is focused on attack, attack, attack……

Chamblee Dad

April 1st, 2013
11:31 pm

Whew! Glad the calendar issue is settled, I mean, its almost summer vacation time & the board needs a break. As Bush said: “Mission Accomplished!”

Joella

April 1st, 2013
11:35 pm

Teachers are not leaving because of the days they work. They are leaving because of what “occurs during the days that they work.” The ‘P-Card” was stopped with no advanced notice. This makes ordering every thing go from one or two days to several weeks.
This is a very busy time for year and people must wait for supplies.

The teachers that I know did not vote for the balance calendar. There should be a vote for a different school schedule at least two years in advance. That gives parents and educators enough time to make changes.

The change to getting paid twice a month as opposed to once a month was done with about a month’s notice during the holiday season.
People that had automatic payments such as mortgage, child support and tution had to rush to change the day the payments were taken out of the checks.
Why couldn’t staff be given more time to make the changes that they needed to make in their payment schedules.

School based staff got contracts with a daily salary, but no one was told the number of days that they would be paid. How do you make plans without knowing the number of days that you will be working.

People are leaving because there is no longer any trust.

another comment

April 1st, 2013
11:46 pm

It is great that they woke up that the Balanced calander stinks. Major employers like the CDC and Emory would not like it all. I worked at one of those as a Supervisor of over 200 for years and it would have been a nightmear.

My kids were in Cobb during their year long experiment. It was horrible, the kids think that you should go on an expensive Florida vacation during each vacation. When during the summer you just stay home.

home-tutoring parent

April 2nd, 2013
12:06 am

I taught kids, my own awrktnd others, math. For example, (a + b)^5 expanded equals what? cos (a + b) = what? These were taught to 11-12 year old boys, who were getting B’s to Ds in school math.

But it’s not juts math. Write a paragraph describing the ideas spoken or written by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Madison, Daniel Webster, John Adams, Alexis de Toqueville, if you can do two of the preceding you get to vote. If you can’t, you don’t get to vote. You can’t get to choose leaders just because you are a “warm body” who is totally ignorant.

d

April 2nd, 2013
12:10 am

I’m a DeKalb teacher – and frankly, I’m disappointed the change happened today. Even with the professional development that I do over the summer (usually 4-6 weeks worth), by the time mid July rolls around, I’m ready to get back. Personally, I feel that making state-minimum (reduced by furloughs) is rough enough – but I have the calling to help the children that I do. I think the break in February was just a little motivation to stay positive when the sky is falling in on DeKalb. That’s just my opinion. I’ll work whatever I need to.

bu2

April 2nd, 2013
12:38 am

@concernedmom
You are having trouble with reading comprehension tonight. I’m asking the public schools to have the same calendar. Why do APS, DeKalb, Fulton not work together? Elsewhere the public schools tend to have the same spring break. But getting the Atlanta metro area to work together seems to be difficult. And many private schools follow the local public schools’ calendar.

home-tutoring parent

April 2nd, 2013
12:51 am

I learned a lot teaching kids. My kids went to bed early. They arose early. They studied math 3 hours a day. Most of you don’t even know that math is a language. sinh x – 3x=y, what does that mean?

Do you have a calculator? Do you know why an HP-50 is more powerful than a TI-86? Did anyone ever lead you through the calculators’ respective capabilities? PCs can do more than either of them. But when your kid is taking honors pre-calc, AP calc, AP chem, AP phys C, what kind of computation machine is the class allowing? Lovett requires a TI. WTF? So stupid.

I gave my students TI and HP. Taught them how to use both. “What do you want to use?” HP. I’m a WASP guy. I learned to use HP’s Reverse Polish Notation from Chinese and Jewish students.

My youngest student, not my son, learned how to use an HP-49. But his teachers after me, required TI-86 Ahh, I get the dumbing down ideology

home-tutoring parent

April 2nd, 2013
1:14 am

nI’m pretty smart. Just consider me totally stupid. But, even though, here’s what I discovered: teach kids year-round. Give them some “”breaks”. Take them places “off season”. Way off season.

We went to Grand Tetons in late September, when school was in session. Home-schooled kids were glomming onto docents, docents were having a blast. The docents were public-school graduates. They were good teachers.

home-tutoring parent

April 2nd, 2013
1:58 am

Where have you people been? Have you been to NZ, and learned from midwives.

Riding waves at Waimea Canyon mouth in Kauai. Surfers wer riding way south. Waves to myself. Why? Because tiger sharks bit humans. Not me. Fawk good waves.

My DILwants to take her parents 45-Beneteau around the world. Of course I want to be riding on that one. She is a beauty. She’s sucking my son in, by teacing him to buy a small sailboat, and learn how to fix it up.

dkpastandpres

April 2nd, 2013
5:07 am

Well, I was at the meeting Monday?? Where were you?? Complain complain none of you are never at these meetings at the BOE! Every day are you present at your child’s chool? Or do you wait till parent – teacher conference to show your faces? How many of you volunteer at your child’s school? Stop taking your darn vacations and take off annd be counted atyour child’s school. It is not okay any teachers are leaving unless they are retiring!! Yes I am concerned they forced out Cheryl past supt, Walker, Copelin had a 365 but watch out election time is coming and they can make a comeback. Stand up parents or shut up!

RedandBlackPeachy

April 2nd, 2013
5:31 am

@ Pride and Joy—I am a Fulton County Parent (not an educator at all) and I wish we would go to a balanced calendar. From a business perspective, if a balanced calendar would help DCSS attract the brightest candidates because those candidates find a balanced calendar attractive, seems like a good idea. Benefits can make or break a job offer for anyone, including educators. If a balanced calendar is the difference of a teacher who is highly qualified taking a position, wouldn’t you want that benefit to be in place?

Teach teach

April 2nd, 2013
6:10 am

I also do not know teachers who prefer the modified year-round schedule, but maybe they exist. My own kids attend school in a different district with different breaks. Rather than make child care arrangements for them for random weeks, I would much rather have the additional weeks together with them over the summer. So many teachers I know are also parents … I have a hard time imagining where all those teachers voting “yes” came from.

I also wonder what else is at play here with this calendar issue. I assure you that most procedures in DeKalb are NOT set up for the convenience of teachers; teacher morale is not usually a very big concern! Anyone who thinks teacher preferences have any sway has not been paying attention…

The Deal

April 2nd, 2013
6:55 am

Whether you are for or against the balanced calendar, I think we can all agree that it is good that the current administration and board is not afraid to step back and revisit decisions that the last administration made with questionable processes. At the last meeting, Howe admitted that Success For All was implemented without the recommended teacher buy-in and readiness training. At this meeting, she admits that the calendar decision process was flawed and rushed.

I think this respect for the process will lead to much more community buy-in, even when you don’t necessarily agree with the result. This is what we have needed all along, professionals acting like professionals. If they do their due diligence on a particular agenda item, ask the right questions, go about it in an open and honest manner, and reach a conclusion, at least anyone who disagrees can feel better about the process.

concernedmom30329

April 2nd, 2013
7:08 am

bu2

They use to work together. And this year, I believe that all the core systems but Fulton have the same spring break. Fulton has been tinkering with their calendar like crazy for the last few years, sometimes starting as much as 2 weeks later than other metro systems.

The agreement use to be the first week of April. Fulton defines that as the first Monday in April, the other systems seemed to have used the first Sunday in April.

As to the other breaks, lots of those are impacted by start date. Several states have mandated a no earlier than start date. I wish GA had one like TX or NC.

fed up teacher

April 2nd, 2013
7:22 am

I was in favor of the balanced calendar in DCSS. We have it in my home county and it is pretty nice to have a breaks in the school year. I believe it cuts down on the “distractions”, but what do I know? Im just a little government school worker drone who works for cheap pay and mountains of paperwork. I am beyond ready to get out of this county, but sadly the invisible serf collar was shackled on once again with contracts being issued too early and having a daily rate on it that I am supposed to calculate against this year to figure out my income for next year. Were projected to have 5-6 furlough days whereas Gwinnett is slated to have none. Whats the story on other counties and their furlough days?

DunMoody

April 2nd, 2013
7:29 am

The Deal is correct … this board is demonstrating prudence and reason in its deliberations. The balanced calendar is an experiment, and we are heartily sick of experiments. What would it be like to have consistency SOMEWHERE in DeKalb schools?

It will take many, many years for the Central office culture to evolve from its top-down, autocratic structure. Mr. Thurmond has an encouraging global view and a stated desire to put more control in the local school, but the Central office staff is still playing the same old games with schoolhouse staff, often contradicting policies Mr. Thurmond has expressed in his public meetings.

My mantra remains: local control is the best solution.

Dunwoody Mom

April 2nd, 2013
8:11 am

The teachers who “overwhelmingly” voted for the balanced calendar were “invited” to vote again in the Calendar Survey – parents were not given the choice to vote again.

Dunwoody Mom

April 2nd, 2013
8:13 am

@The Deal…totally agree. I do not expect to agree with every decision made by the BOE, but I expect their decisions to be made diligently and with all available information – not just blindly vote yes on every item as previous Boards of Education.

Teacher

April 2nd, 2013
8:14 am

Those breaks are not vacations. We are paid for 190 days (less with furloughs ) . Vacations are paid. Those 12 weeks are unpaid.

Carry on.

James

April 2nd, 2013
8:57 am

My experience with this school system: When you attempt to be active in your child’s progress, teachers act as if you’re bothering them. When you try to schedule conferences outside of the ’standard’ school-designated conference time, you are ignored. (This happened by more than one teacher.) When you finally do get a conference, they show little flexibility and don’t give you much time as there is usually someone waiting right behind you. There is little accountability, and mistakes made in grading and other areas that can’t be caught because there is no ability to question or double check without negative consequences to your child. Where is the common sense and compassion? And yes, I am considering other options while waiting for the necesssary changes to occur.

Atlanta Media Guy

April 2nd, 2013
9:12 am

Hey DK! I could not go to the work session or meeting last night because I was at my kids DCSS school assisting with the sound and lights for our students Talent Show Thursday. I would have loved to been at the Palace last night, but our teachers need the OUR help!

Trust and Transparency, two words that Thurmond, HIS staff and the BOE need to look up and learn the definitions. Mr. Elgart SACS is finished! If this BOE does not dump SACS and find another accreditation agency, then DeKalb will continue to the depths of failure never felt by any school system. To think our new BOE will not be allowed to talk with stakeholders is ludicrous! Board Norms should be named Board Obfuscation…..

Howe needs to be SACed quickly. She stands before the BOE and stakeholders and admitted to being a liar! Must be great to have a job and not be held accountable for your decisions and comments.

DekalbMom

April 2nd, 2013
9:23 am

I am not in favor of the balanced calendar, but just as I thought it was irresponsible of Dr. Atkinson to try to push a new calendar on parents so late in the school year as she tried in 2011, I think it is irresponsible for the new BOE to change the school calendar for this coming school year. Some families have already made plans based on the published calendar for next year. I would have left it in place for next school year and then reverted back to traditional calendar for the following year.

Regarding Spring Break, the Spring Break in metro Atlanta public schools’ comes way too late. My kids don’t get Spring Break until next week and they are dying for one. They really needed it beginning several weeks ago. It seems silly to wait until almost the end of the school year to give a spring break. Why can’t it be in mid or late March?

Leo

April 2nd, 2013
9:32 am

I’m disappointed that the board made this decision as I was in favor of the balanced calendar. What I find more problematic is making this decision in April. Again, most people have already made plans for the summer and now there is another week, maybe two that need to be accounted for. And please, someone, feel badly for students who had to forgo opportunities thinking that they didn’t have these weeks only to learn that they are now available after the fact.

whatever

April 2nd, 2013
9:55 am

bu2: Having the same spring break as the entire metro area stinks. You can’t go anywhere or do anything. Everything is concentrated on that week and every place you go there is a crowd. I love the stagger of two weeks, just fine.

As for the summer slide: You folks are crazy if you think going back to school one week early is going to change that. If your child needs additional help, help him. Get him home school books or
workbooks to supplement. Make it happen. You will hear the whine and complaints but you are the parent, just do it.
I like the fact that APS saw the need to take 3 schools and go year round. DeKalb should do this for it’s three worst elementary schools. These kids need to go full year and have fewer interruptions. But, not every child needs this. If a school is FAILING, they should be moved to year round. I believe there are teachers out there that welcome this type of schedule and would move schools. I have talked to a few that do see the benefit and are in a position to work in such a fashion (no kids at home, retiriing within the next 5 years, etc).