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Cobb County School Board – Common Sense is DEAD

Today is a rare occasion… when my political opinions intersect directly with my parenting opinions and my PTSA President opinions.  In Cobb County, GA (where we live) the school board held a vote last week and 4 to 3 voted for a 2011-2012 school calendar that went against the (VERY VOCAL) wishes of the parents, students, teachers, and administrators of this county.

Last year, the CCSB voted for a calendar that pissed off a LOT of people.  They called it a Balanced Calendar and it forced the children back into the classroom on August 2nd this past Fall.  Everyone was up in arms about this calendar because in return for the early start to the year, the children AND teachers received:

  • 1 week off in September (Fall break)
  • 1 week off for Thanksgiving (as opposed to just Wednesday/Thursday/Friday)
  • Standard break for the Winter holidays
  • 1 week off in February (Winter break)
  • 1 week off in April (Spring break) as usual.

To say that there was a lot of opposition to this new calendar would be the biggest understatement I’ve ever made.  People screamed that childcare for those weeks would be difficult to procure (although, I’m sure that daycare centers are happy to take your money in February and September just like they do in August).  People screamed that the facilities costs for air conditioning would be ridiculous.  People screamed that the children would have a harder time learning with all those breaks.  The truth is… PEOPLE BITCH ABOUT EVERYTHING AND HATE CHANGE EVEN WHEN THE SYSTEM IN PLACE SUCKS!!!

Anyway… fast forward to today.  Board members were voted in on the promise that they would revoke this calendar the moment they could.  And shock of all shocks if they didn’t.  Citing voter preference (which was true last year) and lower facility costs for the “old” school calendar, the board kicked the balanced calendar out.

Except… between last year’s elections and last week’s vote, some things happened that they didn’t expect.

TEACHER SICK DAYS:

(This section has been updated to reflect real numbers and not assumptions, as I’ve located actual documentation):
The new balanced calendar has resulted in a reduction of 8740.5 teacher sick days in ONE semester.  Wait… what?  You read that correctly.  Teachers did not feel so burned out and exhausted because of these added vacation weeks that they didn’t call in for as many Mental Health days.  Let me break this out for you:

  • 8740.5 fewer sick days meant that 8740.5 fewer substitute teacher days were needed.  Saving the county $651,342.06 IN ONE SEMESTER (Putting us on track for saving over $1 Million for the full school year), on just the base salary of the substitutes alone.  This number does not include any employer side costs or Human Resources salaries to manage substitute teacher days.
  • 8740.5 fewer sick days meant that there were 8740.5 fewer classroom days spent watching videos and having Free Day because the students had a substitute.  In other words 8740.5 TEACHING DAYS got added back to this county’s students, at no extra cost.
    • A little side note on this one: At Pebblebrook High School, one substitute teacher spent Sierra’s ENTIRE CLASS (Math) talking on her cell phone… and when the student chatter got so loud that she couldn’t hear, she left the classroom to talk in the hall.  A few weeks later, this same teacher spent the entire Choir class spewing propaganda at Anna.  She even made a reading recommendation: The Militant. (Folks, I can’t even make this crap up.) EIGHT THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED FORTY POINT FIVE LESS OF THESE DAYS PEOPLE!!!

STUDENT IMPACT:

  • Yep, you guessed it.  Student absenteeism was down ALMOST 50%.  Guess what?  Part of the schools’ funding is based on student attendance.
  • Students come back from these vacations well rested and ready to work too.  WHO KNEW?  Guess what?  Part of the schools’ funding is based on student achievement.
  • Students get a chance to spend time on these breaks studying for subjects they’re struggling with, work on projects, and work with tutors to help then when they’re struggling, BEFORE it’s too late to do anything about their failing grades.

OTHER STAFF MEMBERS:

I don’t have any actual data for the other staff members, but I’d be surprised if the levels of absenteeism and productivity have not been just as impacted as they are for the teachers and students.  To quote one of our county’s school bus drivers this morning:

The (winter) break is almost over. I know there are a lot of mixed feelings about this week off, but I for one am really happy we had the break. Even with cut in pay, I feel ok. Just when you feel like you are freaking out – there’s a break. Proof for me – I’ve not really been sick this year. Last year I had pnuemonia and the flu so missed two weeks right there. These were a much more enjoyable two weeks. – Tracey

THINGS CHANGE:

Guess what else?  Things change.  People get so worked up about things they FEAR will happen that they knee jerk and do stupid shit like oh… vote in a school board that is also knee jerk and not willing to listen to facts… and then when things calm down and the true impact of the change is seen, realize that they’ve already screwed themselves by being Chicken Little in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong.  Not everyone was happy with the balanced calendar.  Some people liked the old calendar and voted for it.  But you can’t make everyone happy all the time.  Just how much of a “majority” did the Board vote against?

Responses in favor of the Balanced Calendar:

  • Students – 79.2%
  • Parents – 66.8%
  • Teachers – 82.1%
  • Employees (Non Teachers) – 81.3%
  • Residents Without Children in CCSD – 73.6%
  • Total Results after all duplicate entries removed: 77.2%

Responses in favor of the Traditional Calendar:

  • Students – 13.6%
  • Parents – 21.7%
  • Teachers – 10.6%
  • Employees (Non Teachers) – 13.6%
  • Residents Without Children in CCSD – 14.3%
  • Total Results after all duplicate entries removed: 14.7%

So… way to go Cobb County School Board… you made good on your campaign promises, even though people overall decided that their fears were unfounded and that the balanced calendar has been great for the district as a whole.  Way to continue the short sighted, rigid, and self destructive methods meant to prove to us you have only your own best interests at heart and NOT the interests of the education of our students.

OH and thank you for saving us some money on air conditioning. **Except, that’s not true either.  The “Traditional Calendar” costs $62,333 more in utilities just by being open those extra two weeks in September and February instead of August.

**Edited to add quote from one of our bus drivers and to note that this article, along with my comments, was sent to both David Morgan and Tim Stultz (the board members representing Pebblebrook High School and Lindley Middle School, where my children go) and there has been no response.

{ 21 comments… add one }

  • Amanda T. February 22, 2011, 1:56 pm

    But…the money saved on AC is so much more important than our children’s education, physical and mental health, and that of the teachers! Doncha know!

    • Ida February 22, 2011, 4:17 pm

      It’s another case of refusing to make common sense choices just to be contrary.

  • Tracey February 22, 2011, 3:24 pm

    I posted on my facebook and commented there as well. You really put it all in a nutshell. I’m wondering what the Transportation numbers are with drivers/monitors being out. I know that I am much less stressed this year having the weeks off.

    • Ida February 22, 2011, 4:18 pm

      Tracey, if you can find out those numbers, I’d LOVE to be able to add them. The teacher absences were like 8,500 or something but I couldn’t remember the exact number… only that it was more than 8000. Rather than give them something to dispute, I went conservative.

  • m. jones March 14, 2011, 10:34 pm

    Given that you are PTSA President and babble like this,
    I’m even more glad I made the decision to move away from that part of the county to better schools.

    It’s beyond my comprehension that the president of the school here in e. cobb would act like that.

    • Ida March 14, 2011, 10:39 pm

      Perhaps you’d care to respond with facts instead of simply being insulting?

  • m. jones March 15, 2011, 3:01 pm

    The new balanced calendar has resulted in a reduction of MORE THAN 8000 teacher sick days in ONE semester.
    - No facts to support this statement.
    - More likely cause/effect: New teacher attendance/RIF rules

    **edited to remove rude and inflamatory language.

    • Ida March 15, 2011, 3:07 pm

      The reduction in teacher sick days, and the likeliest reasons for such a drastic reduction, was a quote from the Principal of Lindley Middle School, Sandra Ervin. I assume that the principals get reports that the rest of us are not privy to.

      Please keep your comments civil. You’re certainly welcome to offer your opinions, but you are not welcome to slam anyone else’s.

      • m. jones March 15, 2011, 3:26 pm

        I do not see any quotes from Sandra Ervin in the article above.
        I just see an unattributed statement of fact.

        • Ida March 15, 2011, 4:44 pm

          You are correct. The article has been updated to reflect verifiable data. Thank you.

    • Ida April 22, 2011, 4:08 pm

      Oh hey… by the way… looks like the substitute costs (Through March) really ARE over $1 Million in savings already… Granted, it took 3 quarters instead of just one semester… but I guess the county didn’t really need the million dollars anyway, right? 15,000 fewer teacher absences this year so far. http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2011/apr/22/kathleen-angelucci/school-board-member-claims-later-start-date-says-m/

      So glad you nudged me to dig a little deeper than just the principal of my daughter’s school (whom I trust implicitly and has always shot straight from the hip). Now I know exactly how beneficial this balanced calendar has been.

  • m. jones March 15, 2011, 3:22 pm

    The comment/profanity you removed was not mine.
    It is from whoever wrote this stuff and is still posted above.
    Odd that it would be removed from someone calling it out as profanity. Yet it remains fine to be used by the original person?

    • Ida March 15, 2011, 3:30 pm

      I didn’t say I removed profanity. Just rudeness. And it was.

      Perhaps I can direct you to the About Me page. I’m a real live person with real live opinions and real live life experience… and my word choices are my own. Being a mother and a volunteer and a small business owner… and yes, even a PTSA president… does not obligate me to modify anything about myself to fit into anyone else’s box.

      • m. jones March 15, 2011, 3:33 pm

        I am an individual who think’s it is laughable that you don’t want anyone to modify your box – but when someone else uses your exact words – you feel the need to modify their box.

  • m. jones March 15, 2011, 3:25 pm

    that 8000 fewer substitute teacher days were needed. Saving the county a million or more dollars IN ONE SEMESTER.
    - This would imply that substitute teahers are paid $125 a day
    - I thought they were paid less than that?

    • Ida March 15, 2011, 3:33 pm

      Actually, that doesn’t imply substitute teachers are paid anything. By the time the county pays the hourly wage for the substitute, company side taxes for each substitute (unemployement tax, social security tax, etc), the salary Human Resources employees who have to call each substitute and find an available one when a teacher/bus driver calls out sick, the expenses add up.

  • GeMacWil April 4, 2011, 5:48 pm

    Thank you for your insightful article. A local news paper could learn from you on how to write a coherent and data based opinion peace. Of course, in your case it’s not opinion. You actually have hard data to back up what you said.

    Unfortunately those who disagree resort to name calling and have no data to support their arguments. Just to let them know, we are here and we aren’t going to stop fighting for what we believe is right.

    Thank you again.

  • Thom Gray April 4, 2011, 7:01 pm

    Had the CCSD Board of Education paused to consider any data before they leaped headlong into their Feb 17 decision, they would have discovered that academic performance in the district was trending up in the 2010-2011 school year. See http://bit.ly/i0TFEx for an analysis of the data that the board never thought to consider.

  • Vanessa April 4, 2011, 8:16 pm

    Thank-you!!!

  • Mimi @ The Things We Do April 5, 2011, 9:06 am

    Fantastic post! Thank you so much for putting things clearly and with actual data to back it up. I do believe the nay-sayers are those who are afraid of change and moving forward. Great post!!!

  • G. Cole July 25, 2011, 11:51 pm

    Well written article with excellent information. I found it at this time (7.25.11) because I was doing a search to determine when the next school board elections would be and we could vote in new school board members. I am still amazed that Mr. Stultz was elected since his children have not started school. Since he has not experienced the educational environment as a parent, he should respect the opinions voiced by those he represents.

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