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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Seattle Schools "Tentative" Calendar Released

Not sure if this helps but from SPS:

Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Education Association have agreed to key dates for next year’s school calendar, including:

• frst day of school: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013;
• winter break: two weeks, from Dec. 23, 2013, to Jan. 3, 2014;
• mid-winter break: Feb. 17-21, 2014, including the Presidents Day holiday;
• spring break: April 14-18, 2014; and
• last day of school: yet to be determined (June 18 or 19, 2014).

The calendar also builds in four snow make-up days, including Jan. 31, 2014, May 23, 2014, and the two days after the last day of school. It’s important that families should plan for students to potentially be in school during these days, and to note that the last day of school could be Monday, June 23, 2014.

Still undetermined are three professional development days, designed to allow teachers and other instructional staff time to collaborate and participate in professional development activities.

The state requires schools to be in session 180 days. The District asked for a waiver to allow three of those days for professional development, but the Washington State Board of Education has not yet approved that waiver.

A vote from the state Board could come in July, and the Seattle School Board will need to approve the final calendar this summer. The state action could impact the date for the last day of school.

Also, still to be determined are the three days before Thanksgiving. In the past several years, elementary school students did not have school the week of Thanksgiving because of parent-teacher conferences. If waiver days are not approved, the District and Seattle Education Association will have to determine early release days in November to accommodate conferences.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

So I finally went ahead and watched the school board meeting where the decision was made to table the 2013/2014 calendar. According to Directer Carr, the state has already denied the 3 waiver days the district requested. SPS used waiver days in the past so that they could hold school for 177 days vs. the state required 180. The state has become more selective in approving waiver days recently and Seattle's request was denied, so I'm confused as to why the SEA and staff brought this calendar forward and voted on it, knowing it was out of compliance with the state requirement of 180 school days?
TS

Patrick said...

Good for the state. We don't really need to have two week-long vacations just two months apart. Midwinter break could be replaced by a 3-day President's Day weekend just fine.

Anonymous said...

As a parent, I am not happy about the return of a week long mid-winter break, although if it stays, we will obviously adapt. I also am concerned about the return of half days for conferences. In general, I really liked the calendar we had for school this year. It made sense in so many ways. I am disappointed to see the changes and have expressed my displeasure to the district (although I have since received emails stating this is not up to the district, but up to the teacher's union). I was also told by a school board member, that the plan is the go back and forth between the week long break in mid-winter and a long weekend every other year. This type of inconsistency from year to year makes me crazy.

Also, I want to add a round of applause to Highline SD for adding free full-day kindergarten. I wish Seattle would/could follow suit. We are bracing for the $300+ a month we will have to pay for our kindergartner in another year. I know a number of families who could not afford the tuition this year so opted for half-day. Their kids missed a lot because of that. There are lots of families who make too much to qualify for free kindergarten, but who also can't afford the $300+ a month for tuition each month. It is a shame.

Kayo

tk said...

TS said, "...Seattle's request was denied, so I am confused why the SEA and staff brought this calendar forward and voted on it, knowing it was out of compliance with the state requirement of 180 school days?"

Agreed, TS-- Additionally at least 3 Board members also knew about the waiver being denied by the state (on May 9th, a full week before the SPS meeting). The whole SPS Board discussion was bizarre, not even one mention by the SEA union rep in his intro of the state's denial (not only for the 3 professional development days but also the 3 additional parent-teacher conference days), but when questioned by the Board members he confirmed that he knew of the waiver denial! SPS staff was equally incompetent to bring the 174-day out-of-compliance calendar forward for a vote.

Check out the 5/15 Board video (part 2, at 126-134 minutes and then 148-154 min).

It gets even worse if you check out the State Board of Education's (SBE) audio for the May 8th & 9th waiver discussions- Not only did Seattle use an OLD version of the application, more importantly accordingly to the SBE members, they did NOT directly answer any of the accountability questions, i.e. "did you meet your goals with your data?" and "How were teachers, parents, students, and the community involved in the development of the waiver request?" (note that there was a parent survey sent out for the PT conference waiver days, but no survey to parents has ever been sent for the 3 PD waiver days). One comment by the state staff was especially on target, commenting that SPS's response of "see the attached District Scorecard" falls far short of actually answering the accountability questions (as I recall, the district barely made any of their measurable goals at all in the past years).

BUT, here's the deepest rub for students--- the SPS district has repeatedly stated that if these 6 waiver days are not passed that they would have to use TWICE AS MANY half-day releases (there are no state laws or limits for half-days!) which totally blows away the basic reason why there is a 180-day state law in the first place!

Louise said...

Ugh - the mid-winter break return is so annoying. Things were perfectly fine this year with a four day President's Day weekend. Wish it would go back to that.

Bruce Taylor said...

I am happy to see that I'm not the only person who objects to midwinter break. What is the point of it? I'm not being snarky. There must be a reason it's there. Someone please explain.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh TS, you made me smile.

Why did they bring it forth? Because they can. Because they think the state will change its mind.

Many things never make a lot of sense and "time is of the essence" only counts for the district,not for parents.

Bruce, the mid-winter break was always explained to be as a "contract negotiation" which means it's about adults and not students and learning.

Po3 said...

Take four days for President's Day weekend, use the remaining mid-winter break days for PD and be done already.

Oh and please move spring break up a week, mid-April is really late.

Anonymous said...

TK,thanks for the tidbits about the SBE application, all I can say is wow, just wow. Despite the fact that many more half days would be a serious hardship to families, I'm finding myself hoping the second application is denied. It seems as though the district AND the SEA are in need of wake-up call. Students SHOULD be in school for 180 days, and that is 180 FULL days. I'm assuming SEA's hands are tied because the district doesn't have the funds to pay for additional days for conferences and professional development? But the buck needs to stop somewhere, and I fear the only way to really rally the troops is to create a calendar that will have families in an uproar, sad to say. I've had enough of this bs.
TS

Anonymous said...

Regarding the return of a full week of February break - a friend was told by a teacher that there was too much "push back" about this year's schedule. Does anyone know what that means? Who would have pushed back and why? This teacher also told my friend that a compromise was to alternate years that have the full week February break with years like this past calendar of the 4 day weekend. Anyone know more?

Anonymous said...

I'll chime in against mid-winter break, too. This 4-day weekend for Memorial day seems like a good idea -- let's use that for President's Day, too.

Also, lets get real and own the fact that Winter Break exists around Christmas ... it sure would be nice to have that holiday fall right in the middle of the break instead of the very beginning. People would like time to travel to the grandparents, go to holiday activities with their kids, etc. When the holiday falls 1-2 days into break it is very hard on parents to get holiday stuff done, and then kids whose families are not traveling can end up bored by the end of 2 weeks.

Ebenezer said...

I agree that mid-winter break is ridiculous, unless you're eager to go on a week-long skiing vacation (although the regular winter break would work for that - it doesn't seem a common use of mid-winter break).

Otherwise, it's a complete headache for parents, it's a bad weather time for a break - why have it? Better for the kids to get out of school at a decent time in June, not pushing towards July.

And Po3 is right on - why a spring break in mid-April? Why not the end or March beginning of April?

Anonymous said...

I'm so thankful mid-winter break is coming back!!! We like to take a ski vacation every February, and ski vacations in Dec. are a crowded nightmare! I'd be fine consolidating into one March break, I don't see the need for two, but late April is too late for skiing.

The other thing to consider, a lot of preschools and businesses align their schedules with SPS, and the hodge-podge 4 day weekends were really confusing to non SPS families. The calendar should be logical. Students shouldn't have random days off out of nowhere like they this did this year- that makes finding alternative childcare extremely difficult.
TS

Melissa Westbrook said...

TS, did you read what you wrote before you hit send?

And name me a business that aligns with the district that is not ed-oriented?

Anonymous said...

Melissa,I'm so sorry for the sentence jumbling. I was on my phone and I sometimes struggle with it. Did it REALLY need to be called out? :(

Businesses and organizations that align with SPS, such preschools, private schools, sport clubs, churches, music programs,dance studios,community centers, non-profits, special needs therapists, museums...etc. are all impacted by the SPS calendar. Many of these organizations align with SPS by offering special classes or canceling regularly scheduled ones. Those random Fri/Mon holidays can be challenging for them to work with. I'm not saying it's a good or bad thing, I was just trying to highlight that the calendar goes beyond SPS, and that a calendar that feels a little less random would be appreciated by the community.
TS

Michael Rice said...

I just want to go on the record that I really dislike mid-winter break. The time from Thanksgiving to Presidents Day is so start and stop with days off from school that it is very difficult to get any momentum and continuity going in the class. Mid-Winter break comes right after 2nd semester starts and serves no purpose.

I do like what we did this year with 4-day weekends for Presidents Day and Memorial Day.

As for the 3 PD days, I would just as soon cancel them and have school. If education is really about educating students, lets have school!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Here's the deal - the district calendar is for the district and students/parents/staff. That's it. Considering all this other stuff - especially anything religious - should not be a considerable.

Academic outcomes should be.

Johnny Calcagno said...

I've already said how much I hate the week-long mid-winter break, as well as the late spring break. But it's the lack of transparency about how these decisions are made that is most annoying. WHO (specifically) is pushing for these particular breaks, and WHY?

Anonymous said...

As an SPS teacher, although admittedly likely in the minority, I am glad the state turned down the waiver. We need a few hours to prepare our rooms/print updated syllabi and 1/2 day or so for return-to-school nuts-n-bolts meetings (especially years when admins change), but beyond that I find most of the PD days and 2-hour early release days to be a waste of time as currently executed.

Well, let me correct that... they are sometimes good to catch-up (especially when they accidentally place them right before progress reports), but most of the in-district PD isn't that good. I think if we had fewer days the enhanced focus on doing a few good ones would actually make those PD days more valuable.

While I have to admit that most of the in-district PD activities I've been to are not that good, some peers have reported being in positively functioning PD groups. I've been in some PD meetings in which, as a weird twist on accountability, instead of us 'doing' something to get caught up or have a long overdue discussion to resolve an issue, many of the early-release and other PD day meetings have an admin-directed to-do agenda which usually seems to come up with one more thing to throw onto the plate to show 'accountability' instead of being an opportunity to actually improve/complete something we've already been doing. From my pre-teaching industry days I prefer to do some things well instead of have an impossible (albeit impressive) to-do list which never gets done. That sometimes makes us seem like the administrators - we have a plan to do everything...

** SPS Teach

dw said...

Melissa,I'm so sorry for the sentence jumbling. I was on my phone and I sometimes struggle with it. Did it REALLY need to be called out?

I can't speak for Melissa, but when I read your comment and her reply, I did not see "sentence jumbling" as a problem. I did see as a huge faux pas that anyone would even think (let alone say out loud) that a frivolity such as ski trips, or ANY kind of similar recreational endeavor, would be part of any discussion about when to schedule school breaks.

As for all the organizations you mention, they schedule around public schools, not the other way around. If the school district schedules two week-long breaks vs. a single week-long break and a couple 3-day weekends, they will simply make it happen. It's not like they don't already need to work around Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Presidents' Day, etc.

But more important than any of this is that no matter what the configuration is, the district should have the calendar planned out at least one to two years in advance. SPS (and the unions) need to get their act in gear and stop holding up these calendar "negotiations" until it's so late that families can't even plan out their summer schedule in May. At that point it's far too late to make late-summer reservations.

Put the word out to Board members that this is unacceptable. Maybe common sense can dictate a policy of getting calendars figured out much earlier.

Anonymous said...

Was there actually a full, 5-days-in-a-row no early dismissal, week of school this year? I feel like students can never get momentum going because there is break after holiday after early dismissal after development day. I'm not so worried now as my SPS student is in 2nd grade, but this has to be a nightmare for upper levels and I have plans to leave the district before middle school.

To me it all points to what's best for teachers/admin/union is first, what's best for students comes in distant second. We are supposed to have 180 days of instruction a year. Let's just do that. Please.

Mag Mom

Anonymous said...

I was curious, so I just went through the 2012-2013 calendar and counted full weeks of instruction. Most months have only 2, and they usually don't run concurrently. To me, this is a bigger problem than not finalizing the calendar (although their inability make a calendar is definitely worrisome). I wish our kids were in school more.

Mag Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh MagMom, I've been singing that song for years. When my kids were in school, I noticed that they NEVER seemed to be in school for a full two weeks. Ever.

When it comes to the calendar, I have never felt that kids come first.

That said, MagMom, I hope you do consider middle/high school for your student(s). ALL the high schools have gotten better and the middle schools are also all picking up.

Consider what you will save for college (considering those costs are going up).