PITTSBORO — Citing concerns about lack of community engagement and inadequate solutions, community members and teachers voiced objections about the year-round school model to the school board Monday night.
During the public comment period of the Chatham Board of Education meeting at George Moses Horton Middle School, four people spoke against a pending proposal for three Chatham County Schools schools — Siler City Elementary, Virginia Cross Elementary and Chatham Middle — to transition to a year-round schedule from a traditional school calendar.
A year-round system operates with nine weeks of teaching, then three weeks of a break repeated throughout the year, with a longer summer break.
According to the district, former principals in the Jordan-Matthews High School feeder pattern — schools in Siler City — approached the district prior to the COVID-19 pandemic with the concept of incorporating year-round school as a calendar option. The district claims the plan would support student learning and reduce the amount of summer learning loss. Research Triangle Institute Consulting is aiding the district with this proposal.
The district is seeking community feedback from teachers, staff and families on the proposal through an online questionnaire. Last month, the three schools each hosted community listening sessions to explain the proposal and its impact.
Michelle Maxfield, a teacher at Chatham Middle School, said, however, CCS has not done enough to engage with Spanish-speaking families. She said many of them do not have internet access to take the feedback survey.
During the public comment period Monday, she said she believed it was unfair to use those three schools as the tests for this year-round model because all three are “low performing,” according to test scores and accountability grades from N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction.
“We have had principal turnover at all three of these schools in the last five years,” Maxfield said. “So, who are the leaders who have asked for this and are they still with our district?”
CCS outlines of the plan also suggest a shift to more parents working from home due to the pandemic may make a year-round model preferable in an effort to improve student attendance amid lifestyle changes.
Maxfield believes, however, many of those changes have not occurred in Siler City. She said her experience is that many families do not have parents working from home. She said working from home should not be considered in the board’s final proposal.
The district also said other areas often adopt year-round models because they are proven to help low-income students. Katherine Skipper, also a Chatham Middle School teacher, said she studied data from her school for two summers and found that there was no learning loss caused by “the summer slide,” the term used to refer to the information loss during the summer break.
“The result of crunching the numbers for two summers worth was the average change was an increase of 23 points,” she said. “The data suggests our students aren’t experiencing a summer slide. So, building a year-round calendar to address this problem doesn’t make sense.”
Skipper said a better focus would be on improving proficiency among students rather than changing a calendar.
No action was taken on this item. If implemented, the year-round calendar would begin at the schools in the 2024-2025 school year. For more information on the current plan and to provide feedback visit https://www.chatham.k12.nc.us/Page/23652.
• Catherine Overman Hayes, the parent who wrote to administrators — sharing her comments with the News + Record and on Facebook — about concerns with her child being in Eric Hudson’s class at Pittsboro Elementary School, spoke during the public comment section. She reiterated her concerns and urged the board to take action by terminating Hudson’s employment. Hudson was previously charged with destruction to personal property then mandated to take anger management courses following an incident near his home last July.
“There is a teacher who works for Chatham County Schools who should not be,” she said.
Hayes laid out a timeline of events that she deemed “unacceptable,” including an incident involving Hudson giving his students t-shirts upon his reinstatement. While Hayes did not mention Hudson explicitly in her remarks because it is against district public comment policy, she made it clear to the News + Record she was referring to him. Hudson is no longer working at Pittsboro Elementary as of last Friday and his employment status is under investigation, according to CCS officials.
• The board approved the purchase of new 1,850 student Chromebook computers for the 2023-24 school year. The computers will be given to students to help ensure every student has a device. The Chromebooks will cost $650,000. The board also approved the purchase of new network cabling for school internet servers, a project supplemented by the state and federal government. The local cost of the new network cables is $405,000.
• The calendars for the 2023-2024 school year and 2024-2025 school year were approved. The approved calendars follow state guidelines by including a minimum of 1,025 hours of instruction, and at least nine teacher workdays. CCS also built in an extra five teacher workdays to allow for the science of reading training, also known as LETRS.
The next Chatham County Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 3, at the George Moses Horton Middle School multipurpose room. For more information visit www.chatham.k12.nc.us.
Reporter Ben Rappaport can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @b_rappaport
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