Next year’s school calendar for the Clintonville School District wasn’t an action item on the agenda, but it generated almost an hour’s worth of discussion at the school board meeting Monday, Jan. 12.
Clintonville School District Superintendent Tom O’Toole started the discussing by informing everyone in attendance that the new law states a school year is determined by a minimum number of hours, not days, like it had been in the past.
He also shared several news stories from around the state about school districts that are struggling to develop a school calendar for next year.
“Much of what I’m going to try and emphasize is when you develop the calendar it’s a hugely local decision. It’s a hugely board decision on what you want to have as components of your calendar and what you feel are high priorities,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole said the calendar presented at the last board meeting included input from the beginning of the year, and the notion the district should conclude its school year by Memorial Day. In order to make that work, things had to be sacrificed.
“You can squeeze a calendar between Labor Day and Memorial Day, at least next year,” O’Toole said. “It’s very, very tight though.”
He said the calendar presented in December wasn’t perfect, and added that any calendar isn’t going to be perfect.
Since that time, O’Toole said input was sought from staff members in the district.
Generally, staff didn’t like the early August inservice days. Staff liked having the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off. Staff liked both A.M. and P.M. parent teacher conferences. Staff also wanted a day off in between semesters.
O’Toole again emphasized that the school calendar is a local board decision. He added that it isn’t legal to negotiate the calendar with teachers.
“You can get input but you can’t negotiate, there’s no provision for that,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole said if the district is interested in creating a calendar that is best for students, and one that promotes achievement and growth, it must consider the impact of home visits, and how the number of student days and the number of teacher days impacts the calendar.
He added that information about the Shawano school calendar shared at the December board meeting wasn’t correct. He said Shawano has 191 days, and Clintonville had projected 193 days.
“Philosophically and administratively we like maximizing the number of instructional days,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole said the administration was looking for some guidance for assembling the calendar, but ultimately the board can build a calendar to whatever it desires.
As an example, O’Toole said the district could add three minutes to each school day for 180 days it equals nine hours. But instructionally, O’Toole said he didn’t think that it improved the amount of instruction students received.
Teachers in attendance were allowed to voice their opinion and give input to the board regarding next year’s school calendar.
Michele Sasse, a teacher at Rexford/Longfellow Elementary School, suggested an inservice day between semesters to give teachers a chance to finish final grades for the students.
Jill Yaklyvich, a teacher at Rexford/Longfellow Elementary School, expressed concerns about the two night parent teacher conferences.
“As a teacher’s standpoint, it is very difficult to teach all day and then go all night, and then come back rejuvenated for those students,” Yaklyvich said.
She also expressed concern about fitting the home visits into the calendar.
Regarding inservice days, Yaklyvich said when teachers say they need more time it means they want more time in their classrooms to get work done.
“I’m hoping some of these inservice days are going to be those types of days, that they’re not all planned out for us,” she said.
Clintonville High School Principal Lance Bagstad spoke to the board as a parent of a student in the district. He said his daughter, who is a freshman in high school, will miss parts of 13 school days for the required testing the district has. He said if the district went by the minimum number of hours required, it would equal 166 days. With the time spent testing, the number of days for instruction is less than 166.
“If we take that time away from students, we are reducing the number of hours that those kids get in front of trained experts in their disciplinary. I, as a parent, would rather see more days that there’s instruction happening,” Bagstad said.
Jeff See, middle school associate principal, said the district is attempting to use the inservice days differently than in the past. He said the district is trying to make the inservice days relevant to the teaching profession.
“I know it’s a lot of days, but with what’s on our plate, to try to address this Focus school issue that we have, I don’t know that we can reduce it,” See said. “We are working very hard to try to make so that you’re not feeling as overwhelmed as you do, and rightfully so. But we’re still a Focus school in the high school and middle school. And we still have so much that we have to do.”
Earlier in the meeting, the board received a presentation about the Clintonville Middle School and High School being Focus schools. The schools are in the 10 percent of Title I schools statewide that would benefit from additional training, professional development, and resources designed to improve student outcomes for a portion of their student population.
O’Toole said the administration will take the input into account when assembling the calendar.
• The board unanimously approved hiring Troy Cota as middle school categorical teacher, effective Jan. 13. It also approved hiring Amanda Baxter as an eighth grade teacher, effective Jan. 19.
• The board unanimously approved the resignations of Ken Jagiello as middle school football coach and Sarah Wong as middle school volleyball coach.
• The board unanimously approved hiring Jagiello to the position of high school assistant football coach.
• The board unanimously approved the following hires for the pilot department chair program funded by title grant funds, effective immediately: Lindsay Davis (7-12 literacy), Kathryn Moser (preK-6 literacy), Mike O’Donnell (preK-6 math), and Jeff Crumbaugh (preK-12 science).
• The board unanimously verified the Declarations of Candidacy for Jim Dins, Clyde Tellock and Ben Huber, who have filed nomination papers to be on the school board spring election ballot, April 7. There are three vacancies available. Each vacancy is a three-year term.