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School year may end two days early

If the Tennessee Department of Education approves the request, students in Williamson County Schools might begin summer vacation early.

The Williamson County School Board unanimously approved May 21 as the last full day of school for students, instead of May 23, a half-day, as stated on the current academic calendar.

Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney obtained TDOE Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s verbal approval, but said, “It’s not a done deal until we have it in writing.” Looney said that the state commission must give final approval for the change.

Due to unused days built into the 2012-13 school calendar for inclement weather, Looney proposed that the last two days of school – May 22 and 23 – be used as in-service days for teacher training for the new reading Common Core State Standards for the 2013-14 school year.

“More training for teachers just serves to enhance instruction,” said Looney. “This is an opportunity to use the stockpile days to increase professional development for teachers in Common Core.”

Looney said that the implementation of Common Core State Standards is something that the state requires and will be fully implemented by the district in the academic year 2014-15.

“We want to make sure teachers know what is expected and get textbooks into their hands,” Looney said. The district will provide additional professional development in Common Core reading standards for teachers over the summer.

Classified employees will have the option of working the last two days with pay or take their vacation early without pay for the last two days of work. Childcare will be provided for parents and teachers by YMCA Fun Company and SACC at participating schools.

Also, Looney pointed out that the two days that students would not attend school would save the district money in utilities, cafeteria labor expenses and transportation servicres since buses would not run.

“This is a win for us. We are starved for time in teaching professionals to refine their craft. We never have enough time. It is a gift to us,” said Looney.

“I wouldn’t want this to be our modus operandi,” said Vicki Vogt, District 12, school board member. “I think we have a good rationale for doing this, but this is inconvenient for parents. Parents expect students to be in class.”

However, not all in attendance at the meeting were pleased with the direction of common core standards.

Dozens of parents filled the auditorium in the 222-person capacity Williamson County Administrative Complex, showing solidarity in their stand against some of the Common Core State Standards that they believe represent some cultures unfairly. They expressed disapproval of specific verbiage in some textbooks currently being used in WCS.

During the public-comment segment of the meeting, about nine parents voiced their opposition to the curriculum – primarily in cultural studies and geography.

“Statements are untrue, biased and nonsensical. It promotes anti-semitism, anti-Christian and anti-American beliefs,” said Julie West, a parent from Franklin, in reference to an advanced-placement social studies book that has been used by the district for several years. “It just gets worse with Common Core.”

“This is not about religion or worldview. It’s about lowering educational standards throughout hundreds of pages,” she said.

Other parents said that common core math standards were also lacking.

“I think it’s dangerous to take comments out of context,” said Looney. “I would not support a textbook that judges cultures unfairly. This is a college level course.”

Looney said that the district has a process in place to request a review of textbooks used in schools. To date, he said, he has not received a request for such a review.

Posted on: 4/16/2013


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