The Farmington Board of Education took a major step back from a proposed calendar change at its meeting Monday night.
After a lengthy discussion about five proposed early dismissal professional development days, the Board opted instead to form a committee to review the issue of how to schedule professional development, effectively pushing off implementation of any change for another year.
Board members didn’t dispute that the days would be good, even necessary for teachers, rather that they would be problematic for parents.
Jon Landry began the discussion, saying “I think the early release days just add a little more confusion and possible stress to our calendar …but in this day and age with two working parents, it may be adding additional stress to families that may not be necessary."
Ellen Siuta agreed, as did Bill Beckert, a member of the calendar subcommittee that proposed the changes. Each said they had heard from parents that the early dismissals would be difficult.
Superintendent Kathleen Greider explained that spreading the professional development time out over five half-days gives teachers the opportunity to learn a concept, try it out and come back to discuss it, rather than packing several items all into one day.
“Professional development is something we’re constantly looking for ways to increase so that teachers feel they are getting opportunities that are meaningful, that are authentic and that infuse best practice,” Greider said.
Betsy Kaplan, also on the subcommittee, defended the plan.
“I understand what you’re saying but I feel the stress to families is a short-term impact and in the end our goal as the policy committee was to consider what was in the best interest of students and teachers,” she said.
Paula O’Brien agreed.
“I think it will be in the best interest of teachers and students in the long run.”
Melanie Meehan dug deeper, asking whether the board’s job is to serve students’ best interests or those of the community.
“Our job is to do what’s best for children and I believe what’s best for children is what’s best for families; you can not separate that,” said Chairman Mary Grace Reed.
Reed spoke emphatically against the early dismissal days.
“This is a major issue for parents… and I think adding any major additional issues for parents and families is a disruption to their lives that is of significant concern… Parents are living really hectic and chaotic lives… and I don’t want to add to that,” Reed said.
She also was concerned that parents and community members had not had enough opportunity to address the board on the issue.
“We did a lot of work in engaging the community with the Labor Day start and we haven’t done that at all with this. I think that knowing how sensitive the calendar is with people, we’re making a real mistake doing something that impacts parents and families without good communication.”
Greider ended the conversation by suggesting the professional development schedule be sent to committee to be studied and then not implemented until 2014-2015, when Common Core State Standards will be in effect.
The board approved the plan by a vote, with O’Brien, Meehan and Kaplan opposing. The rest of the calendar proposal met with approval. The board will consider the calendar again Oct. 29.