BOE votes for changes to 2008-09 school calendar

COVINGTON - The Newton County Board of Education unanimously approved revisions to the 2008-09 school year calendar at its monthly meeting last week.

Most of the changes come from principals requesting more professional learning times for teachers during non-instructional times.

"The additional times requested would be utilized for training in differentiation of instruction, the Pyramid of Intervention, co-teaching and collaboration strategies for students with disabilities, standards-based instruction in math and science, Department of Education-required initiatives for improvements in math scores with students with disabilities and other No Child Left Behind Initiatives," according to a recommendation by Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley.

The additions do not change the start or finish of the school year, which is scheduled for Aug. 1, 2008, through May 29, 2009, or most student holidays.

The vote allowed for July 28, 2008, originally slated for a general teacher preparation day, to be a professional learning day for system requirements like textbook training for the newly adopted science and math series and the required special education initiatives, the recommendation reads. Teachers still will have preparation days July 25 and 29-31, 2008, in order to prepare for the 2008-09 school year.

Teachers also will get more professional learning days during the school year. Jan. 5, 2009, originally a teacher records day, is now a combination teacher records day and professional learning day. March 19, 2009, which was not scheduled as a student holiday, will now be an additional early release day for teachers' professional learning.

"Overall, we need more professional learning," said Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for instruction.

The original calendar also incorrectly gave June 2 and 3, 2009, as post-planning teacher records days after school let out for the year; the dates were corrected to be June 1 and 2.

The entire calendar can be found at the NCSS Web site, www.newtoncountyschools.org.

School board member Cathy Dobbs said she would like the board to look at the 2009-10 school year calendar and possibly start that school year a little later than previous years and see a change in fall holidays.

"It seems like we get out of school and it's time to go back," she said.

Dobbs also said she would like to see less holidays bunched together in the late fall and winter.

"I've heard teachers say that it's almost too much in the fall," she said.

Whatley said the board can look at into it, but there are pros and cons to both sides; he also said the board needs to look at the amount of professional learning days and other teacher work days.

"How much release time do we take before we realize it's a loss of instruction time?" he asked. "It's a balancing act we have to do."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.