Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis called it 'one of the most important resources we manage.' What was he talking about? He was talking about time. The CMS Calendar Committee has begun planning for the 2011-2012 school year, as was highlighted at tonight's board meeting. It turns out that picking a start date for the year, scheduling holidays, and designating teacher workdays is not as easy as one may think. This is mostly due to the North Carolina state legislature limiting the flexibility of the calendar.
NC General Statute 115 C-84.2 states that school calendars have to be planned within the following constraints: 1) There must be 215 total days, 180 of which must be instructional days, in every school year; 2) 14 or 15 teacher workdays; 3) 10 annual leave days; 4) Either 10 or 11 holidays; 5) November 11th Veterans Day must be a holiday, all other holidays are discretionary; 6) 5 protected teacher workdays (protected means they cannot be used for make-up days); 7) at least 7 optional days for accumulated leave; and, 8) the start day must be no earlier than August 25th and the last day cannot be later than June 10th.
With that in mind the Calendar Committee also has several other goals. These include, but are not limited to, avoiding days with potentially high absenteeism, having two equal 90 day semesters, maximizing teacher workdays, and minimizing the loss of instructional time by having uninterrupted spans of time.
Some members of the Board of Education were shocked by the limitations imposed by the State. Member Trent Merchant took the opportunity to discuss the current legislation and expressed indignation over the rigid terms. Merchant made clear his opinion that the priority of state legislators was not education, but tourism. He cited the apparent influence of the tourism lobby over the start and end of the school year.
Not every board member agreed with Merchant, however. District 1 member Rhonda Lennon is happy with the statute and admittedly lobbied for the later start date. At-Large member Kaye McGarry thinks that the Board has bigger things to worry about when it comes to state legislation: transportation, for example. She also noted that Memorial Day was not a mandatory holiday, as opposed to Veterans Day. She even suggested that students may be more open to attending school on a Saturday if it meant they could celebrate Memorial Day. Superintendent Dr. Peter Gorman pointed out that many people from the faith community use Saturday as a day of worship. Gorman also mentioned that he felt dissatisfied with the current legislation on NC school calendars. Gorman also acknowledged that CMS's lobbyist doesn't believe that a change will come anytime soon.
This isn't the last time board members will get to discuss these issues. The Calendar Committee will come up with 2 options, and then will conduct a 'preference poll' with staff. The result will be a draft presented first to Gorman and then eventually to the Board. The final calendar will be voted on April 13th.
If you would like to give your input on the 2011-2012 school calendar you can sign up to speak at the next board meeting on March 9th.
Go to www.cms.k12.nc.us/boe/Pages/SchoolBoardMeetings.aspx to sign up.