I want to thank everyone for taking the time to ask questions & provide feedback. I’ll be handling the questions that are posed through this blog. The frequency of the updates will depend on the volume and timing of new feedback. Since some issues are represented in multiple survey responses, I’ll be paraphrasing the questions.
When I use the pronouns, “we” and “our”, I am referring to the collective members of the Calendar Committee.
Question: Why is Spring Break so late?
Answer: Easter next year falls on April 24, much later than it has been in recent years. Our goal was to (1) schedule the break close to Easter, being mindful of people’s travel & holiday plans; (2) align our break with those of neighboring counties, being mindful of staff who have children in those divisions; and (3) place the break far enough away from Spring SOL testing to be most advantageous for students, providing ample classroom time for them upon return from the holiday.
If we placed the break after Easter, students would have a short period of time before SOL testing. Feedback we received from teachers indicated that an extra week here would be significant.
Chesterfield, Hanover, Powhatan & Henrico have all chosen to place Spring Break the week before Easter next year.
Question: Why have we proposed make-up days so early in the year when there is little chance of snow? These seem like wasted days. We should use days in January & May instead, and eliminate the extended days option.
Answer: This year’s (09-10) calendar included no make-up days early in the year. In fact, there is only one day built in to the 09-10 school year for make-up. All other make-up days were added to the end of the year automatically.
Many teachers shared that make-up days should be as early as possible and that instructional time made-up early was more valuable than time made-up in June. Goochland has experienced inclement weather early in the year in past years. We see no reason not to designate a few early days (November & December) to address the possibility of inclement weather (hurricane, tornado) early in the year. They are available if we need them, no loss of time if we do not need them. They can only help. If we don’t have inclement weather early, these make-up days have no impact on the calendar.
In addition to the three days designated early in the year, we also built in two days in the second semester – one in February (President’s Day) and one in March (Professional Day). This gives a total of 5 potential ways to make up time during the year – as opposed to this year’s calendar which only included one. We believe this addresses the overwhelming opinion expressed through the initial survey that the committee should build time into the year.
You will notice that the extended (or short) Thursdays have been eliminated. Instructional staff feel very strongly that if we eliminate those opportunities for teacher professional time (training, meeting, planning, staff development), we must preserve the built in professional days and NOT designate them for weather-related make-up. The March professional day remains a make-up day in the 10-11 draft calendar (as it was in this year’s calendar). All other professional days, however, are preserved with respect to this important feedback. We must provide opportunities for professional growth and collaboration.
Regarding the elimination of the “extended days” option, which refers to our “last resort” for making up lost instructional time, we believe that including them in the calendar is more prudent than eliminating them. There are multiple opportunities for making up lost time before extended days would be consulted. Ultimately, the decision to use banked time, June make-up days or extended days will be a collaborative one made with principals and based entirely on the instructional needs of students. By including extended days in the calendar, we simply allow ourselves to consider that option – we are not bound to use them. As such, they can only help. There’s no harm in maintaining the flexibility to use them.
Question: Why are there two professional days so close together in the fall?
Answer: The Instructional Leadership team plans to preserve teachers’ time in their classrooms, preparing for the year, during the preservice week. As such, there will be very little, if any, professional development during that week. We believe it will be important to offer training early in the year, so one of those professional days will be designated for development. We also recognize that teachers and principals need time early in the year, close to the end of the marking period, for specific tasks to be done as a faculty (student grades, school improvement plans, etc). So the other day, most likely September 25, will be designated as such.
Question: Given the economic climate and its impact on our ability to hire new teachers (and possibly reduce some that we have), do we really need a New Teacher Academy?
Answer: No one could predict with any accuracy whether or not Goochland would need to hire new teachers for the 10-11 year. Even in a year when we are considering the reduction of positions, Goochland still could experience the typical ebb and flow of attrition due to circumstances of life, such as marriages, spouse transfers, etc. Should such situations create openings within our staff that we would seek to fill, those teachers who had been reduced who were qualified for those openings would be given the opportunity for reassignment.
The only thing that would preclude our recruiting outside candidates would be if openings were designated in very specific endorsements, such as high level math, science, or languages. If we did not have internal or previously-reduced teachers with those endorsements, we would need to solicit outside applications.
School divisions are required to implement a new teacher induction program, even if there is only one new teacher to the division. It is likely that our current program would be modified to fit the needs of a smaller corps of new teachers – but just as with the inclusion of make-up days that may not be used, including the week-long academy in the calendar simply affords as the option to have the week with new teachers. If the academy were shortened and/or restructured, we could give new teachers a little more time to become familiar with their classrooms, schools and curriculum materials. we see no harm in reserving the week in the calendar and believe any new teachers would benefit from that extra time in our division.
Question: Why is the 10-11 draft calendar not color-coded, as in past years?
Answer: Two things compelled us to revise this aspect of the calendar. Most importantly, we will save a significant amount of money in printing a black & white version instead of a color version. Secondly, with the various types of days that are included in our calendar and the myriad of colors and patterns required to indicate them it can be extremely cumbersome for people to use the color key. The black & white version indicates with clarity and simplicity which days are “unique” and provides the explanation immediately below the specific month in which those days fall. We believe there is no loss in clarity, and thus the financial savings warrants the change.