UC school calendar under review

UC school calendar under review

Posted: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 9:08 pm
By: Kevin Bowden, Staff Reporter

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Concerns from a small group of parents has prompted the Union City Board of Education to delay its vote on a proposed school calendar for 2011-12.
The school board met for nearly an hour and 15 minutes Monday night at Union City High School. The meeting was dominated by a discussion of the proposed school calendar, with three parents attending the meeting to voice their concerns.
After hearing the concerns and discussing the proposed calendar, the board ultimately decided to put off voting on the calendar and will meet at 7 a.m. Thursday in the Municipal Building to consider alternative calendar proposals.
Under the proposed 180-day calendar, classes would have started on Aug. 15 to begin the 2011-12 school year and May 25 was set as the final day of classes. A three-day fall break was set up in mid-October, with a three-day break for Thanksgiving, and eight-day break included for the Christmas/New Year’s holidays. A five-day spring break was scheduled in the calendar.
The proposed 2011-12 calendar would have started two weeks later than this year’s schedule. Also, parent-teacher conferences were scheduled on Sept. 30 and Feb. 17, with classes dismissing for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President’s Day, and students would have had 160 instructional days before TCAP testing on May 2-6.
Director of Schools Gary Houston, in outlining the calendar for board members, said he felt very strongly about having students in school for a minimum of 180 days, and would actually like to see the number of classroom days increased.
After Houston finished his explanation of the proposed 2011-12 school calendar, it was parent Bentley Beard who spoke up about his concerns that the summer break is too long and that changes needed to be made to the fall break.
He was joined at the meeting by two other parents, but it was Beard who was the main speaker. He said there had been a lack of parental involvement in coming up with the school calendar and he would like to see that change.
The board encouraged him and others concerned about the 2011-12 school calendar to voice their concerns at Thursday morning’s meeting.
Board chairman Glenda Caudle described the process to come up with a school calendar as “endlessly complicated” and described the school calendar as a “hiccup schedule” with so many breaks that have to be included in the calendar.
“I don’t know how anything gets done, quite honestly,” she said.
The discussion of the proposed 2011-12 was civil, but it was clear there are public concerns about how the calendar is created and about the late starting date for classes.
Beard said extending the summer break created a “disservice” to lower income students in the system. He explained that many lower income students suffer from an extended break from school.
“I can’t see how it would be in the best interest of low income students,” Beard said in reference to the later starting day for classes under the proposed 2011-12 calendar.
The other two parents — Heard Critchlow and Amy Paschall — agreed and urged the board to reconsider its proposed calendar. Apparently their pleas were successful. A motion by board member Karl Ullrich to accept the calendar died for lack of a second and the board agreed to table action on the calendar until its meeting Thursday morning.
“I think parental input is important,” board member Cathy Waggoner said during the discussion.
Also during Monday night’s school board meeting, the board accepted a pair of financial reports submitted by the local accounting firm Alexander, Thompson and Arnold.
Craig Atwill with ATA presented the board with a 27-page audit of the school system’s 2010-11 activity funds (representing club and school organizations) and a 46-page audit of the school system’s 2010-11 financial statements.
The two audits are presented annually as a review of the school system’s accounting activities, and the audits show the school system’s financial stability.
Atwill’s audits show the school system is in healthy financial shape, with only a few minor incidents of bookkeeping violations cited in the reports.
“All in all, they did a good job,” Atwill said about the administration. He added he found “nothing inappropriate going on” with the handling of school finances.
Atwill told the board there has been a “favorable change in the financial position over the past year.”
He backed up his statement by saying the school system has experienced a more than 30 percent increase in total assets over the previous year and that all the figures in the audit point to a financially sound school system. One of the key findings in the audit was that General Fund revenues were up, due to an increase in the student population.
Atwill told The Messenger during the meeting that the audits reflect a “positive report” for the school system.
With all the good news from the school system’s audit, the specter of the Union City Goodyear plant closing and its imminent impact on the school system’s budget was inescapable. Several board members voiced their concerns over the Goodyear impact after the audit report was given.
In other action, the school board:
• Heard a speech from Mrs. Caudle regarding the administration’s handling of class dismissals during the recent winter storms. In her speech, she praised the dedication and work of Houston and his staff.
Mrs. Caudle will use her speech for her Friday column in The Messenger.
• Was advised of maternity leave that has been granted to three teachers — Stephanie Cruce at Union City Middle School, Julie Morgan at Union City Elementary School and Hilary Webb at Union City High School.  Houston also informed the board that a fourth teacher — UCES physical education teacher Jeremy Maddox and his wife — also recently had a baby. All four teachers welcomed baby girls during the month of January.
• Welcomed three of the school system’s four SCOPE (Student Congress on Policies in Education) delegates to the meeting, along with their teacher chaperone, Kim Sherwood.Morgan Stone, Andrew Easley and Grant Walton were in attendance at the meeting. SCOPE delegate Anna Moore is a member of the UCHS girls’ basketball team and was involved in a ballgame at the time.All four students will be attending the March SCOPE conference and will make a formal report to the board in the future.
• Was informed by Houston that teachers Sharon Barnes, Renee Hempel and Mandy Hopper will represent the Union City School System at the regional teacher of the year competition. The three teachers are expected to be formally recognized at the board’s March meeting.
• Listened as Houston praised the recent 21-0 season of the Union City Middle School basketball team.
He also praised the work of Art Ross, Public Works Director Steve Ladd and his crew, the school system’s maintenance staff and the school system’s bus drivers during the recent winter storms.
Prior to the start of Monday night’s meeting, Mrs. Caudle opened with prayer. Absent from the meeting was board member Curtis McLendon.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by e-mail at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.15.11

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