Supers oppose statewide school calendars

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2012

Local school superintendents are against the bill that passed the house Thursday that would dictate when school systems could start and end the school year, and Andalusia’s representative backed them with a ‘no’ vote on the measure.

House Bill 360, which was introduced by Daphne’s Rep. Randy Davis, would require that schools not start earlier than two weeks before Labor Day and end no later than the Friday before Memorial Day.

Under the bill, schools would be required to have 1,080-hour school years, rather than the 180-day school year. This would allow schools to slightly extend the number of hours in a school day, but have fewer days during the year.

The bill passed the House 62-30 but still must pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Robert Bentley.

Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, voted against the measure, according to legislative office.

“I stayed in close contact with all three of our superintendents,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of the state micromanaging the schedule. I think each school system is unique, and that they have their own needs. Most of the schools have already prepared their calendars and now they are going to have to restructure. The whole point is that students should be first.”

Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson said he feels that this should be a decision left up to local boards of education.

“This should be one that should be a local board decision because they know their system better than someone in Montgomery or Baldwin County,” he said. “We have kind of moved into an area of high stakes testing, and we know that there is a correlation in the amount of time taken off and retention.”

Watson said he has some concerns with the flexibility to lengthen the day.

“We have questions about salary schedules, especially dealing with support personnel,” he said. “We would be able to work with this, but we’d want to try and make it so that we are finishing up the semester before Christmas holidays. There are a lot of unanswered questions, and we’ll need a lot of guidance from the state department of education. Right now, we’re going to wait and see before we do anything.”

Covington County Schools Superintendent Terry Holley said earlier this week that he feels school start dates should be “up to the local level.”

“We know the needs of the community,” he said.

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart agreed.

“I think these decisions should be made locally and not for financial reasons,” he said. “I think we are overlooking the primary concern, which is the reality of summer learning regression. There has been a great deal of research conducted in this area.

“In general, low-income students lose around three months of grade-level equivalency during the summer months,” Smithart said. “Middle-income students lose about one month of grade-level equivalency over the summer. This discussion should not be about vacations, our focus should be on creating calendars that meet the needs of the local school district, and I believe the local school district is best equipped to make that decision.”