MNPS plans parent phone poll on '14-'15 school year

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 9:57pm

So far, parents are leaning on the Metro Nashville school district to shorten the two-week fall and spring breaks next school year in favor of longer summer breaks for their children, but they’re not necessarily sold on building extra days into the school calendar.

That’s what many of the roughly 30 parents and some teachers told Director of Schools Jesse Register Wednesday during an open mic event at the district’s Central Office to solicit feedback on two proposed configurations of the 2014-15 calendar.

But the district is looking to hear more from parents, said Register, and will deploy a phone poll shortly after students return to school in early August. Because the poll will be performed in house, he said the results should be ready to present to the school board by the time it votes on the calendar.

“It’s been very interesting this year that we’ve had very little pushback during the year for the calendar,” Register told reporters after the meeting, adding he’s looking for more input although he favors adding more school days to the calendar.

“I think we have to reach further (into the school year) than we are now if we’re going to have a system with highly successful children,” Register echoed to parents in defending his plan.

A district calendar committee with a mix of parents, teachers, principals and district staff recommended two balanced calendars for the school board to choose from. One would mirror the district’s current calendar by including one-week of “intersession” before the fall and spring breaks.

Intersession is a week when no official classes are held but schools offer programs such as remedial classes or other activities to students. With last school year as the first offering intersession, 7,500 students out of the 80,000 at MNPS attended the programs. The district originally planned to spend some $7 million on the intersessions, but federal funding supporting the offerings fell through and the district instead spent around $800,000, said Register.

“We were disappointed in the intersession and that’s obvious,” Register said, blaming the shortage of funding.

The second proposal, favored by Register, would do away with the intersessions. However, it would build five additional school days into the calendar, a move he said will help students academically. The total days would grow from 175 to 180, but would include a roughly $20 million price tag.

If approved, the days would only be added if the district could secure funding to pay for it in the spring. However, the district had trouble convincing the mayor and Metro Council this year to fully fund their recent budget request, raising questions as to whether the county government would dish out the extra money in years to come.

Many parents sided with Register in saying the interessions aren’t worth the money or the trouble. Those who liked the program said it needed the district to provide transportation to and from the schools, food for students and more organized planning.

But parents also griped about the short summers, saying their children have a tough time securing summer jobs and they want more family time before the school year starts up again.

While Register is expected to recommend his prefered calendar plan to the school board next month, the district is still seeking feedback via its website. The board will also have the choice to revert to a traditional calendar, although the committee recommended against that move.

6 Comments on this post:

By: courier37027 on 7/24/13 at 8:29

All that matters is who counts the votes. MNPS already has their mind made up. This phone poll is a waste of time.

And if these parents need a nudge and get their minds right, MNPS can lure cutbacks in "free" meals and after school care. Heavens forbid a parent taking responsibility for their cherished one.

By: shey69 on 7/25/13 at 11:31

What happened to bills SB 1240 and HB 1133?
Letter to School Board and legislators:

I am a mother of two in the Metro school system and have the privilege of sending them to attend Miegs and MLK. I have been instrumental in the past in establishing change in the Stratford cluster schools, particularly in drawing attention to the despicable Litton Middle school that once was. Thank you for making that school today all that the children deserve.

I am writing today because there is an upcoming phone survey for changes to the school calendar, again. The first survey I participated in asked us to vote for Traditional or Year Round calendars. The Traditional won. Soon after a new survey appeared asking me to choose between two calendars with new names, but one was the old Year Round option and the other very similar with an even earlier start date. I had no option to select neither or Traditional. I hung up, but it kept calling back forcing me to choose the lesser of two evils. The "Year Round" with the new name "Balanced Calendar" won. I felt bamboozled. Way to show that you have "support" from the parents.

What is even more shocking to me is that, following a large community push, the state House and Senate PASSED bills(SB 1240 and HB 1133), just prior to the calendar change, to prevent school from starting before to the third week of August. Apparently these bills have been in "committee" for years now and the school board doesn't seem to expect this to ever become law.

Well I am not the only one who wants the traditional calendar back. So many days are wasted in the school system now it is hard to believe. The "balance" in the calendar now seems to be how many days are before and after Christmas. Who made Christmas the absolute center of learning? Nobody, because it is not. The kids are not getting equal learning days. At some point early in Spring, and after a lot of cramming to catch up from shortfalls, all teaching stops and TCAP training begins. After TCAPS the kids are doing virtually nothing for a month. That is a lot of extra learning days lost! Why can't the TCAP testing happen at the end of the year when the kids are finished with the curriculum?

I don't even want to get into the Heat issues in August and the dangers and costs associated.

If you really care about what parents believe is best for their families you should add the Traditional Calendar back into the survey. If it loses then so be it, but don't force me to vote between two calendars I don't believe in then say I support it. If it wins- fix it so the kids are actually learning everyday they attend.

Of Course if we can get SB 1240 and HB 1133 passed into law then the school board will have to come up with some new ideas, right guys?

By: shey69 on 7/25/13 at 11:41

Here is where we are now: Nowhere!

By: teacherfriend on 7/25/13 at 2:29

The key thing Register has said that will carry the day is that he favors the year round school and extra days. That is all that matters. The parent poll is just a publicity ploy.

By: courier37027 on 7/25/13 at 2:30

Start school day aftr Labor Day. Schedule end of school around Memorial Day depending on snow days lost.

By: nashgurl on 7/26/13 at 8:40

I agree that this poll is likely a formality and the results will not sway the school board or director. I disagree, however, with the parents promoting longer summer breaks with a return to a "traditional" calendar. This "traditional" type of schedule that was established decades ago when the schools served a rural, agrarian-based society, and is out of date and out of touch with the realities of MNPS families today.

80% of the children in MNPS are on free/reduced price meals, and the days they spend out of school are not helping them get ahead of their disadvantaged circumstances. All of our children can benefit from more instructional days, and loss of retention over the summer is not limited to just economically disadvantaged children. 180 days should be our minimum, regardless of when school starts and stops.

I'm also in favor of returning to 1 week fall and spring breaks. It is stressful, expensive, and inconvenient for the majority of families to have 2 week breaks when few childcare options exist.