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.