Friday, June 24, 2011

Five more school days or waiver?

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board members say they're not ready to decide whether to add five student days to the 2011-12 calendar,  as required by the recently-passed state budget bill,  or seek a waiver.  But members reached this week say they're leaning toward the extra days.  Joe White,  Rhonda Lennon and Joyce Waddell all said they think students will benefit more from the extra class time than from the teacher work days that will be bumped.

"I'm just wondering how it's going to be paid for, but I think it's good. I think we need more time,"  Waddell said.

Some teachers say the last-minute calendar switch,  which provides no extra pay for the extra time with students,  feels like one more wallop in a bruising year.  CMS had already decided to add 45 minutes to elementary students' days, which is bound to squeeze teacher planning time.

The N.C. Board of Education met today to set a waiver process.  It's a pressing question in Wake County,  where year-round schools start their 2011-12 year July 11.  Wake's superintendent is seeking a waiver for the coming year.

CMS board Chair Eric Davis said Charlotte has more breathing room with the standard Aug. 25 opening day.  The calendar question won't be on Tuesday's agenda,  he said;  CMS staff is studying options.  Under the process approved today,  CMS has until July 28 to argue that some or all of the days would be better used for teachers' professional development.

Davis,  who's had a tough year himself and now faces a superintendent search,  sounded frustrated at fielding complaints about a change made in Raleigh.  The CMS board had asked state legislators to relax the school-calendar law that mandates when most schools open and dismiss for summer.  Instead of flexibility,  the district got a mandate that could force unpopular changes long after the 2011-12 calendar was approved.

"Late decisions being made,  decisions being made in a one-size-fits-all approach,  decisions being made far removed from the local schools,  that's the systemic issue," he said.

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