Many people have asked us where we are now and how we got where we are with the "balanced" calendar proposal in Williamson County Schools. This FAQ attempts to answer some of those questions.
- What exactly is the "balanced" or year-round calendar?
- How did the year-round calendar come about?
- Wouldn't two-week breaks after every grading term be a good thing?
- Who is on the calendar committee?
- Didn't the calendar committee also devise a traditional calendar for 06-07?
- Haven't parents always had a say in devising the school calendar?
- Where does the School Board stand on the proposed calendar?
- What is the Citizens Calendar Committee's position?
- What about the automated phone survey?
What exactly is the "balanced" or year-round calendar?
If the Williamson County School Board approves the proposed year-round calendar, classes would begin on July 24 and continue to Sept 29. A two week "intersession" would then take place and classes would recommence October 16. Winter break would be December 18 to January 3. Spring break would be March 12 - 23 and the last day of classes would be May 23.
The WCS page showing the calendar is here.
The number of days students spend in class does not change from the present calendar. But the overall school year is longer. The year-round calendar shortens the summer of 2006 by three weeks by starting on July 24 rather than Aug. 14. There are three additional weeks of no classes during the school year - two in the fall and one in the spring. Additionally, it appears that the school year ends a week later than it would on a traditional calendar (May 24 vice May 27).
How did the year-round calendar come about?
01/11/2006 -Every year the calendar committee of the WCS Central Office devises a calendar for the Board's approval. Last year, the committee proposed a start date in early August, 2005 for the '05-'06 school year. The Board rejected it out of hand and directed a start date of mid-August or later. For the calendar proposed for '06-'07, the committee proposed that students start classes on July 24.
Wouldn't two-week breaks after every grading term be a good thing?
No. At the Jan. 5 work session, School Board members said that no one has offered any benefit from the breaks except vacation. We love vacations as well as anyone, but the cost for them in the year-round calendar will be far too high.
Teachers have told us that presently, October is the most productive month for education. There are no interruptions and great strides are made by the kids in learning the material. (This is true during midspring, too.) The year-round calendar destroys those "golden weeks" with frequent, lengthy interruptions of schooling. Teachers will have to review material after the breaks, when presently they build on the momentum they have gained.
Our kids will be compelled to ride school buses during the hottest weeks of the month, especially bad for elementary children. The Parks and Rec office has told us that much of their summer programs will be canceled because they use school buildings for them. A high-school swim coach says this calendar will wreck swimmers' chances of scholarships because crucial summer-league meets are held throughout the southeast the first half of August. Fall and spring sports teams will continue to practice and compete during intersessions. A band director told us that bands will practice daily during at least half the fall intersession and summer practice will have to start as early as July 10. Students have told us they greatly fear being overloaded with projects and assignments over the intersessions; they get them over their breaks now!
We are parents who think these and other costs are too high. Remember, even the pro-year-round calendar schools director, Rebecca Sharber, says there are no educational benefits for the calendar. No one has yet explained what other benefits there might be.
Who is on the calendar committee?
01/11/2006 -The committee is made up of ten people. Five serve at the pleasure of the Director of Schools and five are selected by the teachers union. The committee recommends a calendar and the board can accept it, ammend it or reject it, but a calendar must be established no later than March 1 by School Board policy.
Didn't the calendar committee also devise a traditional calendar for 06-07?
01/11/2006 -Only the year-round calendar has been released to the public. We understand that a traditional calendar has been given to the Board as part of the read-ahead packet for the Jan. 17 meeting. Dr. David Heath, schools deputy director, insisted at the Board's Jan. 5 work session that it is impossible to begin the 2006 fall term later than Aug. 7. However, we have devised six different calendars that begin on Aug. 14; click here.
Haven't parents always had a say in devising the school calendar?
Not exactly. Parents are represented by the School Board who serve as their elected representatives. The Board has the final word on the calendar, but can only make decisions parents want on issues like this one if they hear from parents directly. Please email your school board with your opinion.
Parent Bob McKinney wrote in the Nov. 11 Williamson AM, "The amazing thing is that parents, who pay the taxes that pay the teachers' salaries and tirelessly support the schools, never seem to be consulted when these discussions begin." He's right. The time has come for the "educational establishment" to include parents.
Where does the School Board stand on the proposed calendar?
With a couple of exceptions, Board members have not committed for or against the year-round calendar or any other calendar proposal. The Board will vote on a calendar at their Jan. 17 at their meeting, 6:30 p.m. They may accept whatever the committee recommends at that time, reject it, or accept it with ammendments.
The critical point is that certain board members believe heartily in the year-round calendar. One told us directly that if it doesn't pass this year, it will be back again for next year and that if they can't get it all at once, they will pick away by shortening the summer little by little each year.
What is the Citizens Calendar Committee's position?
01/11/2006 -We support only a traditional calendar for the entire system. YR calendar advocates will gladly settle for a "compromise" - starting classes in early August or converting one or two high-schools and their feeder schools to year-round. Then next year they'll push again for the whole system to be year round. Any kind of compromise will be a defeat for our children and their education. Only the traditional calendar provides the greatest good for the greatest number, especially for our children.
What about the automated phone survey?
Year-round calendar advocates continue to misrepresent the survey's results by insisting it was an "eve" or "50-50" split. In fact, the "pro" response rate was 45 percent, slightly less than the "opposed" percentage. Undecided was 10 percent. Altogether, then, 55 percent of respondents were "not for" the calendar, 10 percent more than the number who said they were for it.
But the survey was conducted before most parents were even aware what it was all about. Parents were not all polled; only one parent per household was polled. Parents were not given the opportunity to choose between a traditional calendar and a year-round calendar because no traditional calendar has even to this day been released to them by the WCS calendar committee.
Parents were given only an opportunity to approve or not the year-round calendar, and that based on extremely biased information sent home with students just before the survey. Many parents have told us that they had concluded the year-round calendar was a "done deal" (a repeated phrase) and that they didn't know they could influence it until we told them they could.
The flaws of the survey are so deep and wide that Schools Director Rebecca Sharber admitted to the School Board on Jan. 5 that the survey did not meet academic standards of the education discipline ("couldn't be used for a dissertation," as she put it).
Nonetheless, some members of the Board continue both to use it to support their advocacy and even continue to misrepresent its result because, flawed as it is, it still shows that substantially less than half of respondents approved of the calendar.