School board stands behind calendar change
Despite pushback, Canby School board members stood firm at their recent board meeting in their decision to close school for students May 8 due to the statewide teacher walkout and make up that day on Monday, June 17.
Several district parents attended the meeting on Thursday, May 2, and one offered a public comment before the board.
Parent Jackie Coleman, whose petition over the June 17 day garnered more than 1,100 signatures, told the board she knows that Oregon schools fall short of the national average when it comes to number of instructional days and understands the need for more valuable learning time. Still she disagreed with the board's decision.
"As much as I respect that reasoning and agree we should all be doing all we can to close that gap, I fail to see how a lone Monday is going to accomplish that, other than maybe a state recording that shows that we've added another day to the calendar, which is not in any way a true instructional day," Coleman said.
She added, "I hope you continue to fight to add days to catch us up, but a lone Monday at the end of the school year that was added in the last quarter of the school year is simply not going to win that battle."
Board Chair Rob Sheveland thanked Coleman, and announced that, in anticipation of the public comment, the board had prepared a statement to explain the rationale behind the calendar change.
After expressing support for more school funding and respect for the teachers' rights to rally to that end, in the statement, Sheveland indeed cited the desire for more instructional time, and also mentioned financial and contract issues.
"We take very seriously our charge to be good stewards of taxpayers' resources and this instructional day has been negotiated and paid for," Sheveland said.
Sheveland later clarified to The Herald that the board and teachers agreed on a contract that included pay for them to work a certain number of instructional, professional development and grading days. So, from the board's perspective, the removal of an instructional day calls for a make-up instructional day.
"Our previous calendar included a scheduled professional development day for staff on Monday, June 17," Sheveland said in the statement. "By amending our calendar to make May 8 a professional development day, and scheduling a regular school day for students on June 17, we preserve a valuable school day for students, our classified staff will not lose a day of pay, and teachers who choose not to take a personal day on May 8 will be able to take advantage of professional development opportunities."
But those teachers who opt to capitalize on their personal day and participate in rallying on May 8 will lose the originally scheduled professional development day on June 17, as students will now be present.
"It does take away a day of grading and closing up their classrooms as they will now be teaching, or more likely, supervising fun activities for students that do show up on that day," Coleman said in her comment.
Many parents have indicated they will not send their kids to school on June 17, and district leaders have expressed a level understanding for that choice.
"A number of parents have reached out to us regarding the 'new' last day of school on Monday, June 17 and possible conflicts," said Greg Dinse, Canby High School principal, in a letter to families. "We will still have final exams as originally scheduled on Thursday, June 13 and Friday, June 14. As for the 17th, we are currently developing a plan for activities on that day. Of course, parents will be able to request an absence if desired."
In the board's statement, Sheveland also addressed possible absences June 17.
"We understand the inconvenience of this late calendar change, and we know some families have made plans and will miss the last day of school," Sheveland said. "Still, we stand by our decision to make the best use of our existing funding for our schools by rescheduling the lost instructional day."
Student absences on Monday, June 17 will not affect the district's funding. In Oregon, districts are funded based not on attendance, but on the average number of students enrolled daily, which includes absent students, according to the Oregon Department of Education.
Canby educators will be out wearing #RedforEd and rallying on each side of 99E on Wednesday, May 8 from 8:30-9:30 a.m. according to Canby Education Association President Ben Winegar. The goal is to encourage the legislature to more adequately fund K-12 education, a goal that may not be far off as the game-changing Student Success Act has passed through the House and now awaits a third reading in the Senate.