Weakley County students may have to hold off on snow dancing. For now, at least.
According to director of schools Randy Frazier, who revealed this information at the regular December meeting of the Weakley County School Board Thursday night, the Tennessee Commissioner of Education, Kevin Huffman, will not be granting approval on any requested stockpile snow days.
In the case of Weakley County, the board has requested four and those are normally built into the calendar, but Huffman, who was named commissioner in March, isn’t taking that into account and is choosing instead to emphasize the importance of being in the classroom for instruction as much as possible.
“In our calendar that we agree on in the spring, we have four stockpile snow days and the law says that you can stockpile snow days and we all understand that and the maximum you can do on that, but it also says these days have to be approved by the commissioner of education,” Frazier explained. “Our new commissioner has told us at the superintendents’ meetings that, at this point, he does not intend to grant any stockpile snow days this year. The question is, we already had those built into our calendar, but that’s not really true. We have them in our local calendar, but our calendar is set anticipating no snow days.”
Students are already going to school an extra 30 minutes a day to contribute to the stockpile snow days. The state requires students to be in school for six and a half hours a day and Weakley County students are looking at seven hour days.
In the past, if days were missed due to inclement weather, Frazier and Weakley County superintendents would be required to write a letter to the commissioner requesting to use the stockpile days to make up for the absences. A response would come back from the commissioner and the calendar could be changed on the database, but, as of now, this won’t be happening anymore.
“He feels like, with all the reform in instruction, that we need to be in the classroom,” Frazier said. “This change is totally made by the commissioner and not the school board. Unless legislation changes, he has full authority over that. I’m sure the word will get out to legislators and that will probably be discussed during the spring.”
“Did he give any thought that our calendars were already set and look at next year for this?” chairman Gordon Morris asked.
“As he transitioned to his new position of commissioner, he said that caught him off guard. He signed off on those last year not really understanding why, in statute, we were expected to have so many days and then we were not making that time up,” Frazier said.
Several schools have already gone to eight-hour days. Frazier admitted he believes the problem originates with the mountain schools that often miss up to 20 days and therefore, look at a calendar year of only about 150 days.
“It’s a legislative concern that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Without state approval, the schools would have to immediately begin taking off holidays and eventually, adding on days to make up for any snow days.
In other communications from the director of schools, the HVAC projects at both Martin Middle and Dresden High schools are expected to be finished Friday and maintenance work will be required on several rooftop units at Gleason School as well.
State report cards were officially released to the media Friday.
“Overall, our report cards have been an improvement,” Frazier said.
“Some schools did really well, others did okay, but across the board, we’ve made improvements.”
A planning session tentatively scheduled for late January will include presentations on the evaluation model and the state report card.
In other business, the board approved Res. 2012-20, involving the federal budget for the Title and special education programs. Allotments were settled with decreases in several areas and minimal increases in others.
In consent items, the board granted permission for the Martin Primary first grade to travel to Cine to see “Arthur Christmas” on Dec. 14 as their third field trip.
As the meeting was held at Martin Elementary School, principal Teresa Jackson gave a report on the school and announced that Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) had been made based on recent test scores.
With the recent technology push in the school, every classroom now has a Promethean Board and all of the classrooms except three have interactive tablets as well.
The outdoor classroom has received a sidewalk for easier access and has five benches and one in the process of being assembled. A red Tulip bed was added this year by the combined efforts of Martin Police officer and school resource officer Christie Lifsey and guidance counselor Megan Poore in honor of Red Ribbon Week and drug awareness and another bed will be added in the spring.
Recognition was given to Brittan Sutherland for representing Martin Elementary and Weakley County for the Teacher of the Year award from the district to the state level.
In announcements, sympathy was extended to the family of Hunter Taylor, a student at Dresden High School and Casey Dunagan, son of UT Martin chancellor emeritus Nick Dunagan.
Congratulations were extended to the Westview Chargers and the Gleason Bulldogs for making the TSSAA football playoffs and to the Dresden Lions for advancing to the title game. Congratulations was also extended to Jeromy Davidson, of Westview, for being named A.F. Bridges Athletic Director of the Year, Chuck West, of Dresden High School, for being selected Principal of the Year in District 8 and Gleason High School for being awarded the A.F. Bridges Divisional Award for the overall conduct of its athletic program.
Frazier reported that Jeff Kelley is now the proud grandfather of two twin grandsons, Cace and Cannon, who were born Thursday in Memphis.
The next meeting of the Weakley County School Board will take place at 5 p.m. on Jan. 5 at the Weakley County Board of Education in Dresden.