By Alex Saitta
January 19, 2014
I voted against approving the School District of Pickens County’s 2014-15 calendar for various reasons. I wanted to see teacher in-service days lining up better with the end of quarters, so teachers would have time to get in their grades and reset for the next quarter.
Even though the state allows them, I don't like the half days. Why is it a half day before Christmas break on December 19th? Children have the next two weeks off and Christmas isn't for another six days.
I expanded on the last reason, because it is something new in the calendar. The district added two more half days to the calendar.
I oppose dismissing students at 1:30 pm on Oct. 7 and Feb 3, so the time can be used to train employees. Adding these two half days to the annual calendar that already has three half days makes no sense to me.
On the three half days already in the calendar, very little work is done. When kids hear the words “half day”, they think “fun day”. Adding two more half days when 20% of our students are below grade level in reading and 25% in math, is not a wise choice. Students need more instruction time, not less.
My solution is not add the two half days. Instead, better utilize the three half days already in the calendar. Move one of those half days to Oct 7 and move another to Feb 3. When the students go home early those says, employees will stay the full day (they are being paid for the full day) and have them do this extra training then.
The school district takes two weeks off for Christmas. The Friday (Dec. 20) before the break this past Christmas, students went home at 11 am, and employees were asked by the admninistration to stay the full day, until 3 pm. I had an employee email me asking if that was the board’s "bright idea", and the employee said it showed we didn’t appreciate employees. I replied…
It was not a board decision, but I agree with it. The 20th is not a holiday and employees are paid a full day. I agree they should work a full day. A lot can be caught up when the kids go home.
It isn't a matter of not appreciating employees. We do appreciate employees and it is shown in many ways. One is the holiday schedule. Employees are given two full weeks off for Christmas. I don't know of any other employer that gives their workers two weeks off around Christmas to be with their families. My wife would kill for that to be home with our kids. She gets off 1/2 of Christmas Eve and Christmas. That's it. She is back to work December 26th. That's how it is for most people.
I’m sorry we disagree. The economy is getting tougher and everyone is having to work harder and longer. It is unfortunate.
If some don't like my first alternative, here’s another. Teach the students all day on Oct. 7 and Feb. 3 and have the employees stay after work and train them then. My child goes to elementary school. I have visited many elementary schools and other schools. Anyone can drive by school parking lots just before and after school and see when the cars are there and when they are gone. I see many employees coming in 15 minutes before school and leaving just after school lets out, so many employees are in the building about 7 ½ hours a day. What is wrong with the idea that every salaried, paid by the day employee, must be in the building a minimum of 8 hours a day? To that end, to ask them to stay an extra hour for training those two days a year is not unreasonable.
Here’s another alternative… Teachers get 10 in-service days a year that can be used for training. Five of those days are scheduled before the start of the school year. Why so many? Teachers only need 3 days to open up their classrooms. If teachers need more training days during the year, move two of those in-service days just before the start of the school year, to sometime during the school year.
There are a lot of alternatives that yield more training time during the school year and do not cut instruction time. They should be seriously considered when the board takes up the final reading of the 2014-15 calendar.