|Photo by Jamie Vinson
First freezing rain fell here Sunday evening, which was followed by heavy snow. The picture above was taken just after 8 a.m. Monday, March 3. Many main roads—such as U.S. 460, were snow covered and difficult to travel. City and road dept. crews, as well as the state dept. worked throughout the night and day Monday to clear roadways. By 7 a.m. Monday, about five inches of snow had fallen here, but snow continued to fall.
|Powell responds to board's makeup plan
|Advocate staff report
Superintendent Josh Powell issued a lengthy statement regarding his rationale for recommending to the Montgomery County Board of Education students attend school for 170 instructional days this year as opposed to 175.
The board voted last week 3-2 for a school makeup plan that includes 170 instructional days and a full spring break off using KEA Day and Election Day as instructional days. The last day for students would have been June 3 if KEA and Election Day are approved as makeup days by the state.
However, a day was missed last week due to inclement weather, and school was canceled again Monday through Wednesday of this week after Winter Storm Titan moved through Kentucky.
The board’s vote received numerous comments on Facebook—some in favor and others against the board’s decision.
Powell’s statement, in its entirety, appears below:
“At the Feb. 25 Board of Education meeting, I recommended to the board that the district attend school for 170 instructional days for the 2013-14 school year, as opposed to 175, and also, that a full spring break be permitted. While I realize that making this recommendation may not please everyone because students and employees have varying perspectives, I offer this correspondence as a rationale for my recommendation.
Also, I want to share that our board provided a survey and received input from over 2,000 respondents. It is very difficult to relay the complexities of a school calendar to the public, especially in the form of a question, and the ramifications of each choice made. The results of the survey indicated that the majority of respondents selected either Option No. 1 or No. 2, with 56.01 percent selecting Option No. 2. In consideration of these results, as well as the following details, I made the recommendation to the board to approve Option No. 1:
Enforcement and Attendance
Building administrators would have a difficult time enforcing attendance for two days of spring break. Educational Enhancement Opportunity leave requests require that the absence provide educational value for students and it would be very tricky to pick and choose whose trips were of value and whether or not to excuse students. Would every employee be required to work or would it be based on plans? (e.g. some have scheduled weddings during spring break in the past). Even with educational leaves for students, it is likely that attendance would be so low that school would have to be excused regardless, as has occurred in the past when attendance dropped below 90 percent due to widespread illness.
End of School
Calendar Option No. 2 listed the potential last day for students as May 30 as the earliest scenario, because there was much uncertainty as to whether KEA Day and/or Election Day would be approved by the state as makeup days. To date, the use of Election Day has not been approved, which would have pushed the last student day into the first week of June, regardless of whether or not two days of spring break were used. The possibility of additional inclement weather days (which has occurred) made it even more unlikely that school could end in May.
Some have argued that “nothing of value happens in school after testing,” so extending the school year would be wasted time. Actually, regardless of when school ends, the last two weeks must be used for testing. This legislation was enacted a few years ago to ensure that this very scenario was eliminated. Students work until the end of the year.
As we have been fortunate not to miss significant days for many years, teachers have come to rely on spring break (without fear of it being used for makeup days), with many making non-refundable plans. Our teachers have helped our students make historical gains over the past two years, increasing from 132nd to 29th in Kentucky, and have worked incredibly hard to do so. Teachers have no vacation days, per se, that can be used throughout the year. The only times they can plan to be off work (and travel) are during days that are specifically marked in the calendar, such as spring break. Snow days do not afford them the opportunity to schedule a legitimate vacation and many of them spend snow days working from home or even in their classrooms. Teachers also work days after the students’ school year ends, days prior to the start of school for students and often attend classes and/or professional development opportunities during the summer. Teacher schedules allow for a very small window of opportunity to plan vacations.
In my view, students should be in school for at least 175 instructional days, if not more, in order to get the most from the educational program. However, as a compromise in my recommendation, I conceded to have a reduction to 170 instructional days, but leave spring break intact.
• We determined that if this recommendation were offered, it would be with the understanding that school would not be dismissed for state basketball tournaments, which is also the wish of the school board.
• Student groups, such as the MCHS baseball team, plan training trips during spring break.
• I did not have a personal preference beyond finding the best solution for all stakeholders, as I personally have no spring break plans.
I understand the significant challenge making decisions such as this poses for our school board and I respect the individual input and opinions of the board members. I know that each of them is genuinely interested in making the best choice for all stakeholders. Board members have spent numerous hours considering calendar options and the decision was not made lightly. Furthermore, our administrative staff has spent countless hours attempting to discern the best possible resolution.
Thus, while I understand the importance of students ending the school year as early as possible due to employment, camps, vacations and other activities in the summer, based upon the input received and the considerations listed above, I felt the recommendation to reduce the number of instructional days to 170 and remain closed during spring break provided the best balance for our district.”
In The Weekly Word, which circulated Feb. 28, Powell noted “The plight and needs of school employees also weighed heavily in forming my recommendation. The administrative support for teachers and school employees was overwhelming, as they are aware of the rigorous and intense schedules that you commit to. You are greatly appreciated and respected for the tremendous work and dedication you continue to exhibit.”
It was noted in The Weekly Word that while the 2014-15 calendar, which was also just approved by the board, includes a longer fall break, spring break could be taken next year if several days are missed from snow.
“It was stated emphatically at the board meeting no nonrefundable plans should be made for spring break because it would be used for makeup if needed next school year.”