Back to the calendar

Calendar-dekalb-schoolsThis email came to us from a teacher. We are hearing that teachers are feeling disenfranchised over the Board’s decision to postpone implementing the much-debated ‘balanced’ calendar approved by our former Board. When Dr. Atkinson made the change from the current ‘traditional’ to the new, ‘balanced’ school calendar, she first surveyed teachers, staff and parents [a SACS recommendation]. The consensus was an approval of the balanced over traditional calendar, thus the change was made. However, it seems our new Board has thrown out the teachers’ opinions and reversed the decision, creating yet another round of schedule changes and reactions. They questioned ‘buy-in’ for the Success For All program at their last meeting, but on the calendar issue, it appears that stakeholder buy-in isn’t as important as the Board’s desire.

Read on>>

…”Is the same decision that caused such upheaval just one short year ago (on this blog and elsewhere), actually happening again? As of April 1st, the new and improved “Board Almighty” has voted to stay with the traditional calendar for next school year (now just 4 months away). I was thinking it to be an April Fools prank… but no. Low and behold, it really happened. They are calling it a “delay” but we all know better than to believe that.”

***”Side note: Can this board also choose to “delay” the nice brand new fleet of cars they have granted to the area superintendents while cutting mileage compensation to teachers who must travel from school to school in their own cars. Can they also “delay” the removal of all interpreters (necessary by federal law mind you) and ESOL registration/testing services that are now placed on the individual schools. Sorry…that’s another topic altogether.”

“Just a year ago, Dr. Atkinson was attempting to make changes to the school calendar and there was complete upheaval, so she surveyed parents, teachers, students, etc. resulting in approval of the new “balanced” calendar for 2013-2014. Now, whether the survey results were actually counted or if it was still an executive decision, the decision was made and the stakeholders of the district have spent time preparing for the new calendar; summer schools have been adjusted, and October and February vacations have been planned!”

“I continue to believe that the balanced schedule is better for teaching and learning. It is more teacher AND student friendly, allowing more frequent breaks. However, I do understand the concerns of working parents.”

“We needed to give the balanced schedule a trial run. Why did they decide against this? I will never understand it. The DCSD “big wigs” are back to doing the same things they have always done. If you support this move because you are in favor of the traditional schedule, then you should still be concerned about the process. How can the schedule be changed only 4 months before the beginning of the 2013-14 school year? The board cannot change things without the process, since that is, as I recall, what the dispute was about previously.”

“I know with certainty that faculty burnout, low morale, and poor staff attendance will surely remain or increase next year. I know with certainty that teachers and children were willing to exchange a shorter summer for more breaks throughout the school year. Who are these nine (10 counting the Super) people to decide in haste to change this with such little time before the next school year? If a need for process was the argument before, then it needs to be an issue now as well. After all, why bother to ask for opinions if you’re just going to discard them?”

“I recognize with every new leader comes new beliefs and initiatives, but allowing one to do the same thing the other was scorned for cannot stand. We must see stakeholders with a voice, and insufficient notice for drastic changes to the operation of a school system should not be tolerated at any time—not just when you agree with it.”

“Please let the board members know if you are for or against this most recent decision. I, for one, am against it, as I was last year. Though I prefer a balanced schedule, the ability to change with such short notice should not be a decision made at this time. If we had to wait a year before, then we should have to wait now.”

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90 Responses to Back to the calendar

  1. Burned by the Board says:

    Who do I bill the $400 I just lost for a vacation I booked during the February break? Why was this even an issue when so many other important things need to be accomplished. Another idiotic move from a group of people who have no idea what they’re doing.

  2. Concerned teacher says:

    None of us at our school believe the votes were even counted. Traditional is what we want. We have our own kids in other counties who wouldn’t even be able to go on a vacation.

  3. teachermom says:

    I know there are teachers who prefer the balanced calendar but I’ve not met one. I have always doubted that the vote from teacher showed a preference for it. Why? Because after the surveymonkey results came back it appeared that Dr. A. might not have liked the results. She then put out a paper survey to teachers with a quick turnaround. She announced the results very quickly. Paper surveys as a follow up to an electronic survey doesn’t lend to an air of trust or “fairness” when asking for input. Also, why ignore the biggest stakeholder of all, families, when there is no research to support the claim that balanced calendars result in better academic performance?

  4. Liveoak says:

    I work for a half-day, church run preschool that had already published a calendar which coincided with Dekalb County’s approved and published 2013/2014 school calendar. I can’t believe we are the only group this April 1st change will affect in a negative way.

  5. thedeal2 says:

    Dr. Atkinson rammed this through and had made up her mind before she did any surveys. Anyone at the first ELPC meeting could understand that. I don’t consider this change to be insulting at all. It is a sign that they are willing to address bad decisions from the past. I am one of those who can actually make plans now that the calendar has been adjusted. If you have a non-refundable vacation, then go on it. The world isn’t going to end either way.

  6. Lynn Cherry Grant says:

    It is unfortunate the this Board is, in my opinion, already failing to put the classroom first in this hasty decision regarding the calendar. These days could easily have become additional instruction days/hours for students who need them in critical areas like reading, math, core courses. There are skilled teachers who would like to have these days of intensive teaching and learning and the extra pay as well.This is a model used by many districts to help their students academically and behaviorally.

  7. John Dewey III says:

    Teachers generally were torn between desire for the breaks in October and February — and dislike
    for the early return in late July. The more important question about the calendar announcement is:
    “Will the 190 day workyear be approved — without furloughs?” This “raise” will bring us back to the baseline and remove the paycuts teachers have had to put up with. The new Board and Mr. Thurmond need to approve the 190 day (no furlough) contracts FIRST and then find funding for attorneys, cars, consultants, coaches and the lingering deadwood AFTER teachers are compensated…..

  8. No matter what – teachers will continue to do the best they can… and things will get better.

    Check out the current edition of Education Week’s newsletter, click here. They are offering some great free webinars:

    1-to-1 Computing Steps to Success
    Ed-Tech Leadership for Better Schools: Leaders to Learn From
    Daniel Pink on How Teachers Can ‘Sell’ More to Students
    State Networks Propel STEM Education
    Refining School System Approaches to Blended Learning
    Blended Learning & Your School Sponsor
    Exploring Teacher-Leadership Trends and Possibilities

    Plus – there are great articles to read as well!

    AND…

    April is National Poetry Month and Stenhouse publishers has collected some great resources for you to bring poetry into your classroom.

    Resources for National Poetry Month

    (These are also listed under Resources for Teachers and Parents, a page under the Resources Tab at the top of the blog)

  9. thedeal2 says:

    If you feel strongly about a balanced calendar, then work with the board and administration to research and propose a truly balanced calendar. What Atkinson threw out there only had a partial October break (when we normally had a long weekend anyway) and then a full week in February. Then there were a few Fridays off sprinkled throughout the year.

    Truly balanced means 1-2 week breaks several times throughout the year. Then a school system uses those breaks, called intercessions, to do catch-up for kids who need it and provides extra income to teachers willing to teach them. THAT is the kind of balanced calendar that might make a difference. Also, are there clusters or charters within DeKalb that overwhelmingly want a balanced calendar before we shift 100,000 students and their families over?

    I know this change is an inconvenience for some, but I really do view this as a positive that the current board is willing to undo some of the mistakes that Atkinson made. Hopefully they’ll do the same with classroom size, Success For All, paras, media specialists, paying for PhDs, cell towers, etc. They aren’t just throwing their hands up and saying a decision has already been made and just blaming the prior administration.

  10. concernedmom30329 says:

    Lynn Grant (is that really you)

    As thedeal2 wrote, this wasn’t the kind of calendar you were thinking about. Systems that do the remediation during those breaks have two week breaks, not one and also teachers must be paid for that time.
    Certainly Title 1 funds can be used for this remediation, but a plan needs to be developed.

  11. DCSD FOR DUMMIES says:

    Complain, complain, complain….the bottom line is that the majority of the staff and community never bought in to the calendar. While we are natural complainers, I think we should give this board a chance. We wanted the block of 5 gone, and now we have that. We have DSW1, DSW2, and many others to thank for that. Will anyone complain if our base is reinstated, or if they downsize the palace? Personally, I don’t agree with the purchasing of the vehicles, but I can’t have everything I want. Also, I didn’t want to come back to work earlier. I would prefer to have all of mind time during the summer. Good teachers will plan, even on their off days, so it defeats the purpose of teacher burn out. Maybe you will receive your money back when they restore our furlough days….

  12. bjy1946 says:

    DCSS needs to get its priorities back in the school house. They have created a hungry monster at the Palace—and the name says it all.

  13. TracyW says:

    I don’t believe that teachers ever bought into the calendar. The erratic school calendars do not allow teachers with children in other districts to have family time, and they don’t allow the teachers time to attend classes of their own. College classes are still in summer session when August arrives!

    Parents are whipsawed by having to find yet another child care solution for an odd day here and there. “Vacation” is a joke for most families. Even one trip out of town per year is outside the budget of most people, so the snippets of time off here and there are a logistical nightmare.

    Teachers used to have 5 classes a day of 25 students each. Now they have 6 classes per day of 30 students each, so every time they give a test, they have 180 papers to grade instead of 125. 44% more work for teachers, with no pay increases, and a rapidly fragmenting schedule. All a teacher gets to do with an “extra day off” is grade papers and fill out more paperwork. Tired teachers struggle back after a “long weekend” of no rest and no play. This kind of pressure is draining them so that they are becoming less and less effective.

  14. bettyandveronica1 says:

    “I know with certainty that teachers and children were willing to exchange a shorter summer for more breaks throughout the school year.”
    Sorry, No you don’t. This is your opinion and maybe a handful of those whom you have asked. I never believed the “survey” results. She wanted this because she wanted it, period. There is absolutely no evidence to support the idea of a week shorter summer helps the summer slide. You know what does????? Parents actually making their kids keep up their skills over the summer. Any break, even two weeks for Christmas, will result in a brain drain. I have seen it with my own child. I had absolutely no idea her teacher expected her to study over the 2.5 week break and lo and behold she gave a unit test after the break with a two day review. Of course the test avg. for the class was mid ’70’s. She didn’t care about a break in learning, it was the way the calendar fell….tough.
    It is foolish to think that shortening the summer one or two weeks with breaks in between will fix the real problem. Kids will always lose information if they are not made to keep up with their skills. This “balanced” calendar is a joke. It ‘s not even a real balanced calendar.
    The bottom 3 elementary schools in this county should be going year round. I am certain there are teachers who would find this an attractive schedule. It seems to be working for APS. Why can’t we try it. Not saying then the county should make all the schools do this type of schedule but they should for the failing schools.
    Parents, figure out the skills your kid needs to work on and do it. Yes you have to be the mean mom and the bad guy. Man up.

  15. tired says:

    Absolutely! I’m thrilled that they put the brakes on the so-called balanced calendar that wasn’t truly a balanced calendar at all! The thought of coming back a week earlier next summer horrified me after the year we have had! Now they have time to examine it and look at what it means to make a real balanced calendar and talk to teachers and see what we need and really want. I don’t think hardly any of us voted for the last calendar that was adopted…at least no one that I talked to.

  16. Sickofdekalb says:

    I am a teacher in dekalb. We did get the results from our school’s vote. 85% of our teachers voted in favor of the balanced calendar. Our morale is low, we are burned out, and we need more breaks during the school year. The teachers at my school are upset about staying with the traditional calendar.

  17. We did have a similar calendar a number of years back. It was actually quite fun to get a random week off in February. We took a group of kids skiing up in NC… had a blast!

  18. Ella says:

    I still am excited about the new board. I am sure they will make mistakes. However, I do believe the change is good.

    I cannot say anything negative at this point as I am excited as to the positive change.

  19. September says:

    I personally prefer the traditional calendar, but I know many teachers who wanted to have the extra days off during the school year. I’m not convinced that starting school one week earlier is going to have much effect on student achievement. If we say we want a balanced calendar to help students, we really need to do more than shorten the summer break by one week.

    My concern with the early start to the school year is that new teachers must work 6 to 8 weeks before receiving their first paycheck. The first paychecks for the contract year are given out in September. The earlier in July we start the longer that wait becomes. DeKalb will pay the annual salary over 13 months so that new teachers get paid in August, but this means living on less for an entire year. Combine that with our already low salaries and I’m sure that good teachers are bypassing DeKalb, in part, because they can’t afford to work here. Do we really want to make things worse?

  20. Balanced Teacher says:

    I voted for the balanced calendar. I believe that frequent breaks are good for teaching and learning. If you look at the traditional calendar for next year, there is a good 7 week stretch between President’s Day and Spring Break. It will definitely will be a challenge to keep the students motivated.

    While I’m dismayed (along with many teachers in my building), I will roll with the punches. At this point, I just want to work a full 190 days. I don’t care if the calendar is balanced, unbalanced, semi balanced, or traditional. RESTORE ALL FURLOUGH DAYS!

  21. DSWparticipant says:

    I know of one teacher–in south Dekalb–who likes the balanced calendar. That is the only person/teacher I have met who does. At my school–Title 1, primarily English learners–what we have experienced is that after each long break we must essentially train students all over again. Consequently, a lot of time is “wasted” on behavior training rather than moving forward with learning curriculum. Retaining what was learned is the underlying motive of a balanced calendar. I do not see that happening. Observing/experiencing that convinced me that the fewer long breaks we have the better. At my school, the people I have talked to want the traditional calendar.

    From an economic standpoint, it does not make sense to begin school at the hottest time of the year. It puts added stress on old air conditioners and certainly added stress on teachers and students who find it difficult to work in early August heat.

    As for the recently departed superintendent’s data on this matter? Personally, I have my doubts about it.

    @thedeal2: Thank you for mentioning (among other items) the need to reverse the decision on paying for 8 administrators to obtain PhDs. What a slap in the face for the rest of us, even after we have suffered reduced income.

  22. DSWparticipant says:

    While we’re talking about calendar, I want to raise another related issue: Extremely early-in-the-day start times. The idea of increasing “time on task,” by having children come to school 1/2 an hour early is, based on my observation, counter-productive. Well-rested minds with a shorter day, in programs APPROPRIATELY designed to maximize learning (by that I mean decreasing the amount of time children look at each other and the amount of time children spend under an overload of noise caused by multiple teachers teaching groups at the same time in the same space–primarily, probably, because there are not enough classrooms), will probably bring better results. This goes under the same umbrella as the increased attempts to measure teacher accountability which cuts into the time we previously spent PREPARING (and I don’t mean planning) for lessons.

  23. DSWparticipant says:

    @LynnCherryGrant: What actual plan was constructed to provide additional instruction during the “off” days? I am not aware of our faculty having been polled to see who would work during the “off” days. If there is a plan already constructed, what does it entail, or where can we find it?

  24. September says:

    @DSWparticipant. I agree with you on the very early start times for our elementary school students. Many of these children aren’t getting enough sleep and that will interfere with their ability to learn. We need to remember that we are working with children. They have shorter attention spans, need frequent breaks to help them stay on task, and they don’t have the same coping skills as adults. I wonder if some of the behavior problems we see in our elementary schools are related to the child’s inability to handle stress. Going back to an 8:30 starting time and making sure that these kids get a short recess in the middle of the day might help.

  25. TracyW says:

    @dsw – you want to see early? Gwinnett HS starts at 7:15. Seven. Not Eight.
    I do think that fewer long breaks make more sense. You have to restart fewer times. The year round school may work for those students whose parents are unable to provide day care with any enrichment values, but the addition of more two or three week breaks is useless.

  26. Cut my pay by 14k classified says:

    I do think that the reason the calendar was (delayed) is furlough days can be added into the calendar easier by just re-upping the same furlough days from 2012-13 calendar. It may have taken more work using the balanced calendar. Ohh, there will be furlough days, best believe.

  27. dekalbteacher says:

    Sorry, Dekalb–I can’t wait any longer; after twelve years, I have to move on. I am thankful that circumstances have presented themselves that allow me to do so. So many teachers are stuck in Dekalb classrooms without other options. It’s hard to change jobs when your degree and only job experience are in education.

    I have to say that signing that resignation letter today felt really good.

  28. Leo says:

    I’ll start by saying that I am in favor of a balanced calendar, although I didn’t really like how Dekalb set theirs out for next school year with the random days vs multiple days in row every 6 weeks or so. Although my husband and I both work full time, we can also afford on some of those breaks to provide our kids with great enrichment opportunities as the pricing in Sept and Feb is considerably lower than pricing during traditional break times. I also see my children, who are elementary aged, get antsy after many weeks without some extra time off. That all being said, I was against the late change suggested last year for a balanced calendar because so many families make plans for vacation/time-off well in advance and changing the school calendar for the upcoming year in April messed with these plans in a manner I felt was unfair (notably, we had no plans so this did not impact us directly, but it still didn’t seem right to shake things up at the last moment). Even if this Board didn’t support the balanced calendar, they neglected to consider that people had already started planning based on that calendar. The same rationale advocated by those who didn’t want to move to the balanced calendar last year — that you can’t make the change this late in the game — should have held true this go around as well and the return to the traditional calendar should have happened the following year.

  29. After reading this post and the comments, I can see the rationale of both sides of the issue. While I was a staunch supporter of the “balanced” calendar, I do believe it would certainly be more beneficial if it was a true balanced calendar. As someone did comment, I actually work at one of the “bottom 3” elementary schools with 75%+ ESOL and believe that we need year round school, extended hours, etc. for the lowest of our students. Are there those who can do well without this and would succeed with the traditional schedule? Yes, of course! I feel that many of the comments come from individuals who know their children/students will do fine, regardless of the calendar. I do not even know what it is like to be in a situation where you can safely assume the students will learn the required content, regardless of if it was taught in school. There is that comfort for many teachers in those schools, but not others.

    I would LOVE to see calendars become a regional decision, though I know this is virtually impossible with such a large school district. The majority of teachers in my school support the balanced calendar, though there does need to be that element of students receiving extra help during those breaks. I’m thinking the district hadn’t accounted for that part, which is why they resorted back to the more familiar traditional calendar. I hope that a truly deep discussion will come out of this. It is difficult when some schools would benefit and others wouldn’t from any number of district decisions.

    Thanks to all who have commented so far and shared valid points on both sides of the debate. I am encouraged by the discussions.

    Regards,
    WUN

  30. DSWparticipant says:

    @BackToTheCalendar. Quote–**”‘Sidenote: Can they also “delay” the removal of all interpreters (necessary by federal law mind you) and ESOL registration/testing services that are now placed on the individual schools. Sorry…that’s another topic altogether.”

    You have attempted to be polite by saying that “that’s another topic altogether.” The topic behind the issue of the balanced calendar is, how can students be helped to learn? Isn’t that correct? [As an aside regarding the calendar, at this point in time, I support the traditional calendar. Why? Because I see the balanced calendar presented as not really balanced but merely a start-earlier-in-July-or-August-throw-in some-extra-days-for-breaks-along-with-furlough-days-with-no-real-plan-for-remediation-during-breaks-kind-of-calendar.]

    To begin with, we’re doing so many things wrong–and I’m not talking about teachers because I haven’t seen one (“good” or “bad” teacher) who did not earn her/his pay–that if we did the right thing to begin with, we might not require so much remediation. If we accepted students as they are instead of laying on them–and ultimately teachers–expectations out of sync with who the students are and where they are developmentally and academically, we wouldn’t be flailing about so much.

    @BackToTheCalendar: You have raised a pivotal issue to all the issues facing DCSD: How can administrators remove the supports to student success and then hold teachers accountable for student success? Having done this has lowered teacher morale so much, not just because we want and need an appropriate income, not just because we are exhausted, but as much because we need confidence in our leaders. When one decision after another is made–and the list is long (Lack of interpreters who previously did interpretation and registration. Lack of paras. Lack of substitute teachers so that teachers of special areas must frequently cover general education classes. So much testing that teachers of special areas are not able to meet with their students. Large numbers of students with a continued push from above to use strategies appropriate for small groups (not large ones), resulting often in chaos. Lack of classrooms.]–that reflects treating students and teachers as products on an assemply line whose needs are far removed from what is imagined by those making the decisions, we are handicapped. Teachers at the bottom of the hierarchy are having to pick up the slack in too many areas to the point where teachers are left with a job that is literally impossible. The picture is too much that of people at the top determining that all the responsibility of a school system is passed down to the teachers (passing the buck), even as teachers (intelligent, educated, experienced, dedicated, caring educators) keep warning of the inappropriateness of those decisions. This type of decision goes to the top of the organization, to the state DOE, to the legislature. Our leaders seem not to know enough about this, or the organizational structure does not permit, leaders to pass upward the issues that are negatively impacting students. Pass upward, even to the state DOE and to the legislature. Stop buying in to every excuse (couched in “research says” when it doesn’t) given from the top for doing things in ways that is not working. In order for those at the top to be willing to be receptive to what teachers have to say, they will have to put greed aside.

    So much time and money is being spent on evaluating teachers. Where is the equivalent TKES for teachers to evaluate all that impacts their teaching and their students? Yes, we’re given a survey to do regarding administrators, but it is not equivalent to the TKES and it is not about the issues being raised here, issues which are often beyond the scope of the immediate administrators’/supervisors’ powers.

    While I am ranting, I want to throw out this thought. As teachers we often talk about what needs to happen at home (sleep, food, discipline, homework). For a moment I want to play devil’s advocate. It would seem that if children have spent 7 hours a day, 180 days a year at school, some of them should know more than they do regardless of what happens at home (aside from sleep. Should we have a project to make sure children are not having to share beds with 2-3 other family members?) For secondary level students, I understand the value of homework. However, if school is arranged for learning, why should it depend so much–at the elementary, especially the primary level–on homework done or not done at home? Please don’t think I’m pointing any fingers at teachers. Everyone is working very hard.

    Studies on noise, I believe, have a lot of the answers to the issue I have raised in the paragraph above.

    In my imaginary, ideal world, I would have struggling students spend time in boarding schools until health, sleep, discipline, work habits, ability to work up to one’s ability, etc. are on track. Since that won’t happen (any time soon) then my Plan B would be this: At the very least, I would like to see more administrators visiting classrooms, not just observing but being part of groups so that they FEEL what it is like to be in a modern classroom. For me, sometimes it feels good, and too much of the time it feels like a waste of time–because of how we are mandated to teach. When teachers are respected enough to give serious consideration to what we say we experience and know from our observations . . . then we can make progress.

    Well, this was a convoluted way of addressing the issue of the calendar. However, the calendar iis part of bigger issues. Why, in fact do we need so much remediation whereby it matters whether or not we have a balanced calendar? I believe we should think about that question.
    .

  31. Kimberly says:

    Parents think that teachers are babysitters for their children and that is why they are against the balanced calendar. Teachers are no longer respected community members and have no voice, no money, no rest period. Nothing! What a waste of degrees! If I could trade them all in to pay back my student loans I would get a refund and go work in corporate America. Do you think parents will interfere there? This is too much stress! No wonder the kids and teachers are stressed out! Student behavior is out of control! You can’t find a parent when it comes to discipline but they show up and out over a calendar? Silly….

  32. Selflessly supportive says:

    I am an educator/parent whose view point has been established by looking from the inside out as well as the outside in. My child is in a cluster of schools whose teachers’ attendance is at an all time high and the teachers’ morale and test scores are at an all time low. In this cluster of schools, the teachers overwhelmingly supported a balance calendar. While interviewing them, many of these educators were more than willing to sacrifice that “ONE”, count it, “ONE” week of their summer vacation in order to have those days off during the school year.
    At one of the schools, teachers’ absences are being reported as over 100 days in one month. I am told that the teachers have missed on an average of 12 days so far this year. This is an alarming number! How much of instructional time is being loss? The children are the ones that suffer. When asked the question as to why so many absences, many of the teachers pointed the culprit-being burned out. Sure they had many ways to describe this burn out: mental health day, stress day, tired, sick with no symptoms, etc… Unfortunately, several of these same teachers stated that they were going to take those balanced calendar days off anyway for the upcoming school year.
    In this same cluster of schools, many of the parents did not support the balance calendar. It is also to be noted that many of these parents do not support a traditional calendar either. They constantly complain that the summer vacation for the students is too long, but yet they complained about the extra days off during the balanced calendar. Some of their responses included, “Who’s going to watch my child(ren)”, “I don’t have the money to pay for daycare”, and “Why? They get too many days off anyway.” Let it also be known that many of these parents knowingly send their children to school sick and refuse to come to pick them up from school if they (children) are sick.
    As for me, having a dual role as an educator as well as a parent, I would much rather my child have his refreshed, energized and possibly happier teacher at school delivering instruction to him as opposed to 20% of his instructional year being delivered (or not delivered) to him by a substitute. Does this mean that as a parent of a Dekalb County student that I will be inconvenienced by having to make arrangements for my child on these days off because the county I work in has a different calendar? Of course it does, but as a parent, I want what is best for my child, and that may not always translate to mean convenience for me. My child’s education is invaluable.
    It is unacceptable that this change is an “eleventh hour” change. When Dr. Atkinson first proposed the change, there was an outcry that there was not enough notice given. Whether or not you agree with a balanced calendar you have to agree that this change was made with MUCH less notice. Fair is fair. What many of us are noticing is that this last minute change is fine if the pendulum swings in your favor.
    Would this not have the potential to save this school district upward of a million dollars or more in substitute pay? As humans, many of us are resistant to change, but sometimes change is actually good if the change is allowed to happen.

  33. dekalbite2 says:

    Teacher attrition as well as excessive teacher sick says should be public knowledge and published for the public to assess the effectiveness of the administration. If one or both are high, this is a tremendous problem for student achievement. Both of these factors point to low teacher morale, and nothing can be done about this until teacher morale is improved. Hiring long term subs for $90 a day ($10 an hour) is not the solution for students, yet this is exactly what Mr. Thurmond is doing. Who gave him such bad advice for students? Improving teacher morale should be the number 1 priority for Mr. Thurmond. If teachers are fleeing the system and taking sick days in record numbers, student achievement, particularly in the low income schools will take the hit. The teacher and the student share the same environment – no one else in the school system has that arrangement with students( the people who are the reason the school system exists). If the teacher’s environment is degraded, the students’ environment is degraded.

    Mr. Thurmond and the BOE members need to ask for the teacher attrition and sick day numbers for teachers and share this at a BOE meeting. They need to be asking teachers what they need to do to attract and retain highly qualified teachers, and then they need to make the necessary changes and take the necessary steps. Hiring $10 an hour substitute teachers (who BTW do not have have any teacher certification or training or teaching experience – look at the PATS requirements) is totally opposite of what should be happening.

  34. DSWparticipant says:

    Re: teacher stress, low teacher morale, sick days, and a balanced calendar as a solution. I disagree that a balanced calendar is a solution to this issue. If one is eating food that is not nutritious, taking vitamins may help, but it is not the full answer. Causes of teacher (and student) stress need to be examined.

    To begin with, one stressor is noise. Noise is stressful for both teachers and students (and I’m sorry to harp on the noise issue, but no one else is, so I’ll carry the torch on that one). Noisy methods that are considered wonderful in small doses are being delivered in large doses. If a survey were done on noise alone, I predict that a lot of students would confirm that there is too much of it, because I have heard this from some students already. As noisy methods have been promoted, there has been no corresponding adjustment (by administrators) in the physical environment to accommodate the noise.

  35. @DSWparticipant

    We are intrigued. This is the first time anyone has mentioned noise, we think. Teachers may know what you mean, but perhaps parents and other stakeholders do not know. Could you be more specific with some examples, please? If you prefer, you may send the examples to our e-mail [dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com] — especially if you feel like they might identify you too much. We can work with you to figure out a way to describe the noise factor in a manner that does not identify you.

  36. Educator says:

    Noise in a classroom is necessary when doing project based learning. The underlying cause is too many kids in one classroom. Twenty elementary kids working in small groups is less noisy than a classroom of thirty or more. As an educator it is a hard line to walk because many students do need quiet to think but that sometimes interferes with the creative process of others. As for me it is no longer an issue in this county as I did not sign my contract. I hope there were hundreds that did the same. Imagine the message that will send to the palace if they have to replace 1,000 teachers.

  37. Funny. Noise is necessary for creativity… hmmm. I’ve worked in corporations, non-profits and ad agencies – always in creative departments. They were never noisy. In fact, they were fairly quiet. Oh, yes, there were occasional outbursts of fun – but those had nothing to do with work.

  38. Educator says:

    With respect, you were working with adults that have had a lifetime to learn how to “play well with others” and control their excitement. Try keeping a quiet room when you have thirty kids working in an enclosed space writing skits in small groups, building three d models of a scene from a book or creating posters about important people. Sharing ideas and problem solving using their inside voices are important life skills that most seven year olds do not have. It falls on teachers to teach those skills to students that have little self control. Again nonissue for me, Dekalb has killed my love for teaching and it is time to move on to a new career.

  39. Nope. I couldn’t do it. Not with 30 children. But I still think that children can be quieter than they are these days. Really though – most kids are fairly quiet when fully engaged. I don’t know why children have gotten so much louder than in the past. Everywhere – they are just not as disciplined and run about freely. I know a librarian who has worked in the public library for 30 years and has seen quite a change in children’s behavior.

  40. DSWparticipant says:

    Some methods that work well at the college level have been over-sold for lower grades. Entire classes working on group projects, in many of the situations I have witnessed, have been the epitome of chaos.

    Speaking of the college level, I want to add that acquaintances, relatives who teach at the college level have been somewhat disparaging of the wave of interactive group methods. The comments I have heard is that students have come in recent years increasingly unable to work on their own, to work without being entertained, or to write essays as well as previous students. I have heard this about students entering average colleges as well as elite colleges.

    I think the average teacher means well, and if told that certain methods are great will try them. Those at higher levels (administrators) need to get in the middle of situations and get a clear idea of the consequences of what is being pushed as “best practices.” Some practices may not be so appropriate for all ages.

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