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Board OKs some four-day school weeks

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Modified calendar still needs state approval

By Shannon Brock

Anderson County students are one step away from having 13 four-day weeks as part of their 2009-2010 school calendar.

The Board of Education approved the modified calendar at its regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 15, but before the calendar can be put it place, it must be approved by the Kentucky education commissioner.

Superintendent Kim Shaw didn’t foresee any problems getting the calendar approved, but the commissioner’s approval is required, he said.

The modified calendar would do away with the district’s early dismissal Wednesdays and give students a day off about every other week.

On each of the four-day weeks, students would be out of school on Mondays. Two of those Mondays are holidays, seven would be used for professional development and four would give both students and teachers a break.

The early dismissal Wednesdays served as professional development time for teachers, Shaw said. But because of changes in professional development, that time frame was no longer effective.

“Things change and needs change,” Shaw told the board at the meeting. “Teachers are no longer doing professional development within each school. The schools are working together. By the time they travel from school to school they have no time to do anything meaningful.”

Shaw said ridding the calendar of early dismissal Wednesdays would also provide students with more stability in their schedules.

With this year’s calendar, students have a set schedule Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, but then Wednesdays were shortened, he said.

“From a continuity standpoint, I’m not sure how effective that is,” Shaw said, adding that he didn’t have any evidence to back that opinion up, but that it is his personal opinion.

A modified calendar should prove to have other benefits, too, he said.

It should improve attendance of both students and employees because they have days built into the calendar on which to schedule doctor appointments, dentist appointments, etc., Shaw said.

If teachers are missing fewer days, that also means fewer days the district has to have substitutes, which in turn saves money, Shaw said. Also, it means regular teachers are in their classrooms more often and that benefits the students, he said.

The modified calendar is also more “fuel efficient,” he said.

“If we’re going to run the buses, we might as well stay a full day,” Shaw said, adding that the buses will be on the road five fewer days as the calendar will drop to 170 instructional days from 175.

Even though school will be in session five fewer days, the modified calendar actually includes 12 more instructional hours than the current calendar, Shaw said.

The modified calendar also has built-in makeup days if the district is out because of bad weather or sickness, Shaw said. If days need to be made up, some of the Mondays could become school days, he said.

Lisa Petry-Kirk, president of the Anderson County Education Association, also spoke at the board meeting in favor of the modified calendar.

“We overwhelmingly support the modified calendar,” Petry-Kirk said.

She said the ACEA surveyed its members and conducted a county-wide survey of staff, and over 80 percent of those responding were in favor of a modified calendar.

As an eighth grade teacher, Petry-Kirk said she has begun to work more with seventh grade teachers and teachers at the elementary and high schools.

“It’s a godsend when you’re trying to work with other schools,” she said.

Shaw said the modified calendar wasn’t perfect, but that it better meets the needs of the district than the current calendar.

“There is no perfect calendar,” he said. “But we felt like this one was the most beneficial and would improve student achievement.”

What about daycare?

Daycare will be provided by the school district on the days when school is not in session, Superintendent Kim Shaw said.

However, all of the daycare specifics have not been worked out yet because the modified calendar must still be approved by the Kentucky education commissioner.

Once the calendar is approved, the details will be worked out.

In other business

Shaw recognized four of the district’s teachers who became National Board Certified in the past year. Mike Watson, Lisa Newby and Jennifer Cottrell, all teachers at Anderson County High School, and Beth Harley, a teacher at Saffell Street Elementary School, earned the certification. National Board Certification is the highest certification a teacher can receive.

Shaw also presented board member Sandi Whitaker with a rocking chair for her 16 years of service on the school board. Whitaker did not seek reelection for the next term and the Dec. 15 meeting was her last regular meeting. Bonita Young was elected as Whitaker’s replacement in November and will take office in January.

Shaw said Whitaker was a dedicated board member for 16 years.

“We were really lucky to have someone who put as much time and effort into it as she did,” Shaw said.

Shaw said he enjoyed working with Whitaker and appreciated the fact that she always shared her opinion.

“I never had any question about what she thought about something,” Shaw said.

Whitaker said she was caught off guard with the presentation, but that she enjoyed her time as a board member.

“It’s been great,” she said.

Also, Technology Integration Specialist Blake Drury presented the Student Information Policies and Procedures for the first reading and discussed the district’s switch from STI to Infinite Campus, which is used to collect, house and track student information and data, he said.

The board also established the positions of daycare director and daycare workers for the daycare scheduled to open at Emma B. Ward Elementary School on Jan. 5, as well as the position of energy manager, which is required as part of the district’s agreement with Energy Education.

At the recommendation of high school Principal Ray Woodyard, the board also granted four requests from students to waive the eight semester graduation requirement and allow the students, who have met all other course and credit requirements, to graduate at the end of the semester.