Register pushes plan for balanced school year calendar

Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 11:09pm

Two weeks before a decisive school board vote, Director of Schools Jesse Register is heightening his pitch for adopting a new balanced school calendar, releasing a short video to board members Tuesday night to help make the case.

“Time is a very important variable that we need to use better,” Register begins in a film he narrates. “I feel like we cheat children out of time in Tennessee.” 

For the past several weeks, Register has had board members, teachers and parents analyzing and providing feedback on two so-called balanced calendars for the 2012-2013 school year that would shorten summer breaks, but create longer spring and fall breaks, along with “intersessions” aimed at student enrichment.

All the chatter is heading to a climax when the Metro Nashville Board of Education votes on a proposal Aug. 23.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Register described a scenario in which he would likely recommend the board adopt a version that would begin school on July 25 in 2012, contingent on an extra $20 million in future unidentified funding to extend the number of school days from 173 to 180 days. The proposal also has 10 days reserved for the professional development of teachers. 

But his recommendation would have what he calls a “fallback” plan if the $20 million weren’t available. As a plan B, the board would approve a second balanced calendar that would begin school on Aug. 1, cost no additional funding, but only increase school days to 176. 

“Long summer vacations affect the retention of learning that children have over the course of the school year,” Register said, adding that it disproportionately hurts economically disadvantaged and English Language Learner students. 

Of course, Register’s recommendation, if it materializes, would come down to the votes of nine board members — and they made it clear Tuesday they haven’t decided. The board could also vote for one of two traditional calendars.

“There is a lot of speculation that a decision has been made by this board,” board member Cheryl Mayes said. “But it has not.” 

During a one-hour conversation on the topic Tuesday, board member Mark North cited concerns with the $20 million in funding. As did board member Michael Hayes, who alluded to the “political realities” of the coming year when he said a property tax increase could be on the horizon. 

But board member Ed Kindall reminded colleagues that adopting a balanced calendar wouldn’t necessarily be asking for additional funds; hence, the plan B.

“As a school board, we do what’s best for children,” Kindall said. “I think we need to put that out there and not worry about $20 million. Hopefully, that will happen. If it doesn’t happen, then we haven’t lost anything. We would move back to the same calendar.

“If you start talking about that now, and start speculating on whether or not we’ll be able to get that money, all that does is give people ammunition who don’t want a balanced calendar,” he said. 

• In other items, the school board adopted changes for the 2012-2013 student assignment plans of the Antioch, Cane Ridge, Pearl-Cohn and Hunters Lane high school clusters.

The changes only affect certain neighborhoods and schools within each cluster. Approved changes are available to view at mnps.org.

14 Comments on this post:

By: Funditto on 8/10/11 at 5:34

Hire more teachers Dr. Register. Make the classes smaller and easier to control. Students don't need longer school time, they need quality school time with real instruction and less chaos.

By: girliegirl on 8/10/11 at 6:34

Agreed! The student/teacher ratios are insanely high right now. Some parents in Metro have lost their jobs, and have recently had to place their children back in Metro schools, not that we didn't all see this coming a year ago. I promise you that Metro never gave it a thought.

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 8/10/11 at 6:50

Since long breaks are detrimental to learning, it makes sense to shorten them. It is true there is some chaos. Unfortunately, that is sometimes created in their home environments.

By: girliegirl on 8/10/11 at 7:16

taxpayer....poor families required summer jobs of their teens and tweens back in the day.... sadly, there WERE no jobs for them this summer. Gosh knows I looked, on their behalf.

By: bonk on 8/10/11 at 7:43

Yawn,
Another rearrange the deck chairs on the titanic gimmick-type move from our school leadership on Bransford Ave. We are led to believe that our children forget everything they learn from the previous year because their summers are two weeks longer than they should be and that suddenly Davidson County will be transformed to an educational utopia if only junior has to slug on their backpacks in late July. All this at the cost of sticking parents with the cost of finding childcare for random weeks throughout the school year and cutting short full time summer job, travel, and enrichment opportunities for kids that just don't exist in random weeks throughout the year.

So please school board - resist the temptation to rush to the latest fix-it-quick patch. Put the money where it belongs - with smaller classes and more school resources and dismiss these "something must be done" central office for the quack schemes they are.

By: jambenp on 8/10/11 at 7:54

I realize the other comments I read are about the quality of education, which is what its about. But I have to say. $20 million for 5 days. Surely something is left out of this article.

By: edspec on 8/10/11 at 8:25

The analysis of when and what children forget is overly simplified. Pretty sure the research shows that almost all the forgetting happens in the first 3 weeks of a break, and that balance calendars have no positive effect on student learning. It's a huge disruption, with a lot of promises that will ranged from difficult to impossible to keep, in order for no probable gain. SSA anyone? Teach more, test less.

By: Roger3600 on 8/10/11 at 8:36

The citizens of Metropolitan Davidson County are amazing. We spend one half billion dollars on a Convention Center yet we BM&G over spending 20 million dollars to educate our kids.

By: localboy on 8/10/11 at 8:43

Balanced calendar...hahahahaha...hire more teachers with those funds and reduce class sizes.

By: mkelly62 on 8/10/11 at 9:15

Dr. Register did this with 2 other school districts and neither one is still doing his balanced calendar. We need to have the $20 million added to the school budget, to hire more teachers, reduce class size, extend the school day, outfit each classroom with state of the art technology, textbooks and other necessary supplies. These things will benefit all the kids, including the "at-risk" kids.
The balanced calendar that has the intersession days is ridiculous. They say those days will be for "student enrichment" for kids that need extra help. I can see the self-motivated overachievers taking advantage, but the kids they are aiming these days at will most likely not show up anyway, unless they make the intersession days mandatory.
Personally, I feel that in order for our kids to keep up with the world we need to not only extend the school day, but the school year as well, but not the balanced calendar that Dr. Register and the school board is trying to ram down our throats. Everyone needs to remember that the school board is a publicly elected body. If you aren't happy with your representative, vote them out. The school board is supposed to look out of the best interests of the students, not kiss the backside of the superintendent du jour.

By: three3 on 8/10/11 at 11:51

When did the former MNEA president now vice president check with membership before endorsing the balanced calendar?

By: bfra on 8/10/11 at 1:42

Register is clutching at straws to try and make it look like he is doing something for that over the top salary he is getting!

By: Dancer2010 on 8/10/11 at 2:11

Time for reality. Taxpayers have no further funds. The
City has depleted out of the funds. Educators need to start some
self-development through university continuing professional
own source. Any further development needs to source and
fund by the State if requested of need. Students already need
a calendar that is workable and utilize the time for further studying
that is effective for the study needed over social, athletic, and early
time off left leaving school early.
Twenty million additional amount of dollars is unrealistic and
the need for further funds need to star raising the school its own funding
outside of Metro and the taxpayers. Lets see what the board raises when
they find how difficult it is to raise the funds themselves as the taxpayers can
no longer due any funds due to recession, no jobs, loss of homes, and
food costs needs.
Time for the School Board to work within what they already have---no further
to other expectations that already have four to five generations that have
covered the last several decades of costs.
Enough already is covered and work with what is there!!!

By: pswindle on 8/10/11 at 9:24

Without Collective bargaining, the class size can increase and there is nothing that the teacher can do. Collective Bargaining did more than salary. It was a protection for sthe students as well as being fair to teachers.