Adkins urged everyone not to panic about the poll as it does not mean the school system will change the format if the vote leans in that direction. Also, she wanted to make sure everyone knew the poll concerns the 2012-2013 school year and not the 2011-2012 calendar.
School Boards like Wilson County are under the laws and statues of the Tennessee Department of Education, which sets parameters that boards must follow in creating their calendars. Often times, these statues can make that job difficult Adkins said.
“Rules are getting more and more strict about when you can start school and about TCAP testing,” Adkins said.
The Tennessee Code Annotated, which is the state policy that schools boards have to comply with, says that school cannot start any earlier than Aug. 1 and that Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests cannot begin until students have completed 150 days of instruction.
The calendar’s structure is determined by the calendar committee and approved by the Wilson School Board based on “conflicting statues” said Director of Schools Mike Davis.
“We thought we’d do a survey and see what everyone thinks about the calendar,” Davis said.
The online poll was set up by Nancy Ash chairman of the calendar committee and went live about a week and a half ago. Adkins said a Parent Link phone call was sent out last week informing parents about the poll.
Adkins said that most teachers and parents that she’s spoken to have expressed their support of the current calendar format and she said the poll is a good way to see if the whole district feels that way.
“It’s a cheap way of doing something and getting some information from our constituents,” Adkins said.
Changes from the state don’t make life easy for the school board as Adkins said there is legislation that will make changes to a number of the board’s policies. Recently, the state mandated that TCAP scores count toward students’ grades in grades three through eight.
At the Dec. 7 board meeting the board passed that change making TCAP scores count toward 20 percent of students’ grades beginning in the Spring 2011 semester. Adkins indicated that the state is unsure whether those changes will even stick.
“It’s like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Adkins said, referring to state policy changes.
Adkins also indicated that Wilson is not the only county considering calendar changes for the future with the changes in state policies. Poll results won’t be known until after the first of the year and once they are, Adkins said the calendar committee will look at the results and take them into account for their decisions.
“We try to do our calendars about a year in advance so people can plan,” Adkins said, adding, “This is just one piece of the information that we have to consider.”
If the calendar committee makes changes to the 2012-2013 calendar the changes will then go before the board for their final approval. In the new calendar, the Christmas break will remain the same no matter what.
“If we change the calendar, and that’s a big if, there will still be two weeks at Christmas,” Adkins said.Davis said the state has to approve the calendar to ensure it fits within their parameters set out by state policy. He said the board should be considering more instructional days.
“I think we don’t have enough days. I’d like to see us go to 200 days,” Davis said. “In an industrialized country, we need to look at longer school years, not shorter ones.”
For those who don’t have internet access, you can cast your vote in the poll at the various county schools in paper ballots.
“I do encourage people to go online and take the survey so we’ll have some information to work with,” Davis said.