School Committee to weigh changes to calendar, including elimination of 3 holidays

This fall, Superintendent Dr. Charles Gobron invited the public to join a committee to consider improvements to the calendar. One of his stated goals was to have a less interrupted beginning to the school year.

One of the changes the committee proposes as a fix is removing religious holidays from the school calendar. The holidays are Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and Good Friday.  (Though in 2014, Yom Kippur will fall on a Saturday.)

Under the proposal, students would be allowed to miss school on their religious holidays. No tests or sports competitions would be scheduled for those dates.

Now the the K-8 and Regional school committees will have to decide whether or not the proposal is a solution they support.

The calendar committee submitted their memo and proposed calendar to the school committees at their combined meeting in December. They asked the committee to look over the proposal and wait until the January 29 meeting for a discussion. The vote is scheduled for February 13.

Some members of the school committee voiced objections at the December meeting. Detractors labeled the change as disrespectful of peoples’ religions. 

The Metrowest Daily News reports that regional committee member Lynn Winters argued that it forces an unfair choice on students:

She said she believes eliminating the holidays ensures that children “lose either way” by forcing them to choose between missing school or missing religious services.

“We shouldn’t be putting our kids in the position of choosing between two things that are good and important in their lives,” she said.

Superintendent Gobron told the school committees that if they don’t eliminate religious holidays, growing Muslim and Hindu populations could argue for future inclusion of their holidays. 

Gobron asked members to hold off on further feedback until the January 29 meeting. Subsequently, he posted the information on the district website for community feedback.

Anyone who would like to share their opinion on the matter can email clepore@nsboro.k12.ma.us.

To read the memo, click here. To enlarge the calendar below, click on it.

20131231_recommended_2014-15_school_calendar_sml

 [*Want an example of a past calendar with all 3 holidays for comparison? Click here for the 2012-13 school calendarI remember that September, grumbling with other parents about the crazy school calendar. During the first 7 weeks of school, only two of them were full weeks.]

What do you think?

Should separation of church and state mean that school is in session despite holidays?

Or should respect for religion in the community mean no school held on those dates to allow students to worship without missing school?

Is there anything else about the new calendar that you like/dislike?

Do you have another suggestion for schedule improvement?

61 Comments
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SB Resident
8 years ago

New calendar looks much better to me. School should always start the day after labor day. The one exception is winter break is too long, I think especially right now we’d all agree that almost two weeks is waaayyy too long when the kids are trapped in the house. I get that there isn’t much you can do, but I’d still have school on the 2nd and I wouldn’t make the 23rd a half. I’d put that prof dev somewhere else like Jan 16th.

LAH
8 years ago

Having gone through the Southborough schools we never had these holidays off when I was a kid. It sounds to me its easier to do away w/3 days off instead of having to take more time off for other cultures holidays. It seems a win/win situation to me and there is always that year that one of the Jewish holidays does fall on a weekend, so you are just looking at 2 days really. Southborough has become a very diverse town and if the schools are going to let those students take day off because of their religion without being penalized then what is the harm. Several area schools go to school on Good Friday now anyway.

Jonas
8 years ago
Reply to  LAH

New calendar is a solid, first step. Having a 10-13 Day Winter/Holiday/New Years followed Six weeks later by a Feb Vaca is worth looking at in a phase 2. The professional development days baked in around Columbus and Thanksgiving Day could be a phase 3. There will never be common ground between the public school calendar and working parents; but the examination of eliminating some of these off days is at least trending in the right direction.

John
8 years ago

I agree with losing the 3 holidays, I don’t remember having those off as a child either. I am curious though, as to how many days in a school year are missed due to Teacher development days? I don’t remember days off for those either
Couldn’t they have developmental days during the school breaks? ie Winter break, April vacation or Summertime? I’m sure it’s a contractual thing but isn’t the Teacher contract being negotiated now? Teachers are paid an annual salary with roughly 12+ weeks off per year. I am sure they can find the time then.

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  John

While it’s undoubtedly an inconvenience sometimes to us parents when there are professional development days, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to be asking teachers to do them during breaks or summer vacation. They work hard enough as it is: After school, preparing for the new school year in September (which includes being at school longer into the summer than the students, and coming back in mid August), and attending to their own families. The students benefit from the new skills and information the teachers acquire during these times.

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  A mom

i.e. on the professional development days.

Parent
8 years ago

I’m very grateful to Dr. Gobron for addressing this issue and to the committee for the time they spent putting together this proposal. I think most parents would agree that a change is necessary. While the proposed calendar may not be ideal for everyone, it is probably the best solution.

I believe I heard that the number and timing of half days of school was outside of the scope of the committee’s responsibility. However, that’s an issue that definitely needs to be addressed, too. There are way too many half days of school and the fact they often vary by school is so disruptive and creates a real burden for working parents. My oldest has been in the schools for seven years and there are many more half days now than there were when he started. What’s going on?

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Parent

It doesn’t seem to me that there are many half days..Only on teacher conference days or right before a vacation. I may be mistaken.

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

That’s fortunate!

Parent
8 years ago
Reply to  A mom

I have two children in two different schools. Between the two of them, they had eight half days from September through December. In my opinion, that is excessive. Also, a quick check of my calendar shows that there were 16 weeks of school from September through December. Of those 16 weeks, only five did not include a half day or day off. I am not an educator but that just seems wrong to me….

Sboro Mom
8 years ago

This calendar makes a lot more sense with starting school after Labor Day. However, we do not need a one-week vacation just six weeks after a two-week vacation–all in the winter months. Why are we focusing on religious holidays vs. excessive vacation days? Having said that, I vote for both eliminating Feb. vacation week (or just having the Friday and Monday off) and eliminating the other three proposed days as well.

sl
8 years ago

I agree with Sboro Mom. Make President’s Day a 3 day weekend. We don’t need another week off in the winter 6 weeks after winter break AND 3 weeks after a 4-day weekend for MLK and prof development. I’d far rather have school end mid-June and have the kids home in the summer.

Sboro2
8 years ago
Reply to  sl

Although I can see how all the breaks can get tedious, I feel like February break does serve the purpose of closing schools during a time when lots of kids are getting sick with flu, stomach bugs and other assorted childhood illnesses. January, February and March are long winter months to get through without a break.

Dj
8 years ago

I went thru the Southborough school system. There was a half day every month for teacher professional development or parent conferences. Just after having my first child enter the school system, I became part of a study group that created the current school calendar. Parents complained that there were two many half day/early release days thus the full day professional development days were created. Parents choose to have them tacked on to two key weekends that would allow family travel, Monday after Thanksgiving and the Tuesday, after M. L. King Holiday. Other half days were for parent conferences.
I think what they have proposed is a great option. I too am a working parent, we are given the calendar in March and it allows plenty of time to plan child care. The current calendar had a great deal of parent input, I don’t think they will ever please all parents no matter what is decided.

As for the February vacation, we all had this off. It gives time to get the winter sickness out of the schools, custodians time to rid the school of germs and minds a break prior to the pressures of MCAS testing. Some parents just don’t want to have to take the time out of work or have to find daycare. This is just one of the bumps in the road of being a parent. My vote is to go with the proposed calendar.

LAH
8 years ago
Reply to  Dj

Correct when saying, you will not please all and yes the calendar is given out in plenty of time for planning. The new calendar should be given a chance and I work in the school system. For future reference you should take a look at Hopkinton school calendar. They have a 1/2 day once a month to allow for professional development /teacher conferences when it’s time and they moved it this year to a Friday so parents could plan for a longer weekend. They have only 2 full days of professional development during school year and one full day before students go back after Labor day which is the Tuesday. Students start back on the Wed.

BarbM
8 years ago

The three days being considered for elimination are holydays, not holidays. For those that don’t remember having Good Friday off, I’m surprised since it has been an observed holyday in this state since I was a child. Since we are primarily a Christian country, I believe Good Friday, Easter and Christmas have always been observed holydays for both schools and many businesses, including the Stock Market.

If you are really looking for better balance in the school calendar, I’d leave in the holydays, make the February and April school vacations three day weekends and create a spring break in March. Making the vacation changes would net you the three days and you wouldn’t have to deal with the religious/school choice issue. At the very least I’d move the December professional day to March so there is at least a day off in the eight week stretch.

Kate
8 years ago
Reply to  BarbM

BarbM; the word holiday equals “holy day.” As far as I can discern, the superintendent is trying to be respectful of all religions, not just one or two. No student is being denied the right to take the day off for religious observance. Easter falls on a Sunday, so no worries there.

A jewish mom
8 years ago
Reply to  BarbM

If we are eliminating all religious holidays, why do we still get Christmas off? Maybe winter break should be dec 29- jan 2…just saying…

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  A jewish mom

Good point!

Kate
8 years ago
Reply to  A jewish mom

Interesting thought. I wonder how many students would be at school if classes were held that day. I’m not sure what the breakdown is with regard to student religion, but I’d guess that the overwhelming majority of kids would be out. And many teachers too. I personally wouldn’t have a problem with my kids attending school (we are not religious). This might be something to bring up with the school committee.

SouthSider
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

December 25 is a national holiday.

SB Resident
8 years ago
Reply to  A jewish mom

As a non-christian, I don’t see Christmas as a religious holiday. To me it is a national tradition akin to Thanksgiving.

Rachel
8 years ago

I’m all for losing the February vacation week. It’s excessive.

Matthew
8 years ago

Making up snow days is a new concept that I didn’t enjoy when I was a kid.

Teachers are paid for 12 months of service and ought to do their development days outside of the school calendar. My wife is a professor who is actually made to sign an agreement that at no time during the calendar year would she take a job that would interfere with her primary role. This has meant that her school has scheduled meetings in mid summer and she needs to be there. There is little reason, except perhaps for their union, why our teachers could not develop over the summer break.
We don’t get these days off and have to stay home or pay extra for childcare to accommodate them. Is that actually a tax to fund their career development?

We need to ditch whatever religious holidays that could be challenged by families from other beliefs, that are not already federal holidays.

Also when I was in high school we went to school on MLK day because we believed he would have wanted up to work harder to develop ourselves instead of taking a day off. It was a private high school so we had the luxury of making a calendar that made a bit more sense.

Copied to clepore@nsboro.k12.ma.us

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Matthew

So teachers should do their development days during the summer because they have such luxurious salaries, is that it?

The teachers, they just can’t win, can they. People want a quality education for their kids, but they don’t want to have to put up with any inconvenience.

I wonder what you would think about all this if you were a teacher. But I suppose you wouldn’t want to be one.

Beth T.
8 years ago
Reply to  A mom

I am a teacher and I can promise you that we do plenty of professional development in the summer. I often use that time to go to week long conferences that I would otherwise not be able to attend because I am at work, and taking a whole week off can be a challenge. The days we are able to come together with our co-workers provide a wonderful opportunity for us to share what we have learned with each other.

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth T.

I somehow suspected that the teachers were already doing professional development in the summer.

It seems reasonable to me that, especially in light of that, having a few days to also do it during the school year continues to make sense.

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  A mom

“As for professional days in the summer, my source was told that is prohibited by the teachers’ union contracts.”

Do you teach in a private school?

Djd66
8 years ago
Reply to  A mom

A Mom

Yes, they should do 2 development days during the 2 months they have off during the Summer! Why is that unreasonable? They have more vacation time than ANY other profession.

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Djd66

Djd66:

They may have “more vacation time”, but they have a lousy pay rate. How about you advocate to raise their pay (unless you feel teachers shouldn’t get a decent wage), and then MAYBE those “two professional development days’ can be inserted into their summer.

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  A mom

It seems that there are some parents in the fair town of Southborough who would like a quality public education for their children, and don’t want any of the sacrifice. And some who send their kids to expensive private schools who don’t want to pay any taxes to fund the public school system.

I’d like to think that some of these comments are just venting after two weeks of being cooped up with their kids (I was too), but somehow I think not.

SB Resident
8 years ago
Reply to  A mom

Can you please explain how they have a lousy pay rate? My calculations find that the average teacher salary in sboro is > 100k when you factor the vacation time to a normal full time job. I don’t find that lousy at all.

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Matthew

Interesting perspective on Martin Luther King day..I wholeheartedly do not agree.

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  A mom

100k? I don’t think so. Perhaps a principal might make that amount.

If they make that much, they deserve it, and should not have to catering to the capricious whims of entitled parents.

Al Hamilton
8 years ago
Reply to  A mom

Here are the facts:
The average teachers salary at Alonquin for the year ending in June 2012 was $83,573. http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/teacher.aspx?orgcode=07300000&orgtypecode=5&leftNavId=815&

The average teachers salary in our K-8 system for the same year was $79,771.
http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/teacher.aspx?orgcode=02760000&orgtypecode=5&leftNavId=815&

The state average for the same period was $70,962

If the past is any indication those numbers have been increasing on the order of 7+% per year.

Teachers work about 180 days per year vs 220 for a typical private sector worker. If you make a “Full Time Equivalency” adjustment would put the average Algonquin teacher at a $102,144 Full Time Equivalent Rate and the K-8 Equivalent would be $97,497.

Since the numbers cited above are averages and starting salaries are in the 50k range it is clear to me that we have some senior teachers who have progressed through the “steps and lanes” that are making salaries in excess of $100k before “Full Time Equivalency”

Teachers also have excellent benefits that are available with only modest co pays, excellent job security, and the ability to retire with a pension and health care as early as age 55.

I am not bashing teachers, it is hard work if it is done well but the impoverished teacher claim is really hard to justify.

SB Resident
8 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Thank you for showing my work. Not to nitpick, but I think it’s a little worse, typical workers I know generally work 52 weeks * 5 days – (8 – 12) holidays – 15 (20) vacation days = 228 – 237 (or more days) days. Teachers may work more than the 180 getting the room ready, homework, training etc, but this way your math is still about right.

I also find it annoying that people call pointing this out teacher bashing. It is not. The underpaid argument is over and given that we are paying our teachers appropriately, I don’t think that asking a lot of them is unfair. Paying more to get more is what is supposed to be what makes our schools better. Limiting the time our kids are in the classroom by having half day prof days that count towards the 180 isn’t the better I’m looking for.

Tim Martel
8 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

“The state average for the same period was $70,962”

You mean the state average for teachers, not the total state average?

Annie
8 years ago
Reply to  A mom

It’s teacher bashing time again. Sigh. Teachers DO NOT get paid during the summer. The check that they receive is a portion of their August to June salary. Their salary is divided out over 52 weeks Enough already!!

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Annie

Thankfully, the children going through the excellent Southborough school system (which I feel very lucky to send my child to), will probably turn out to be much better informed and educated than some of their parents. Thank you, Southborough teachers, and teachers in general!

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Annie

SB Resident: See Annie’s comment below.

Sboro Mom
8 years ago

I would like to provide feedback on a couple of points :

1. February vacation week does not serve the purpose of eliminating winter sickness/flu from the schools. Just call Southborough Medical Group Pediatrics. The flu is here now. My kids are vomiting now:(

2. Love Barb M’s idea of making February and April school vacations long weekends and creating spring break in March.

Hoping the school committee reviews this blog!

Sboro2
8 years ago
Reply to  Sboro Mom

No, February vacation does not eliminate all illness but by the time it arrives six weeks from now it will provide a welcome break from the spreading of various sicknesses through the classrooms. This is just the beginning I’m afraid… Sorry your kids aren’t feeling well, hope they feel better soon.
February vacation is good for playing in the snow – March break is only good in my opinion if you have $$ to travel somewhere warm.
Why so many against February vacation? I love it!

Kelly Winand
8 years ago

I completely agree with the elimination of said holidays, since kids won’t be penalized for not attending on those days. I also agree with some of the above commenters that think we should go a step further and eliminate February vacation as well as half-days. February vacation is completely unnecessary, when there’s already Christmas and April vacations on the schedule. When I was a kid, parent-teacher conferences were held in the evening, and I recall half days as being a rare, not regular occurence. I know teachers work hard, but find it difficult to believe that in the two months of no school, the PDDs can’t be fit in at all during that time? I also recall as a kid always going back AFTER Labor Day – what’s the point of going back before for a couple of days only to have a long weekend, then days off for religious holidays? The first few weeks of school there are so many days off, I wonder how much the kids actually even get out of being there.

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Winand

When there were parent-teacher conferences in the evenings, teachers were VOLUNTEERING their time for that. Once they were able to get a union, that was fortunately done away with.

Unions aren’t perfect, but they’ve helped teachers to not be taken advantage of in quite so many ways.

I’m all for school starting after labor day, and going later into the end of June. Perhaps shortening vacations slightly–if that is workable. I am mixed about whether to hold school on religious holidays, for the reasons that Lynn Winters gives, even if the students who observe those holidays aren’t penalized for not attending school then. But then Charles Gobron makes a good point too.

A mom
8 years ago

It’s probably not required, but some teachers may do it anyway, because they are dedicated.

SB Resident
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

I agree, summer or middle of the year is irrelevant. I assume they just don’t want to be forced to come in at some random point in the middle of the summer.

The half days are what bother me because the half days count as part of the 180, so it is my opinion that we are getting short changed since they are doing most of their professional development during the 180. This was harder to be against when we had 5 built in snow days, but now they did away with that too (which I’m not against). But I think the half day professional development should end, it is implied that we are paying for 180 full days and that is what we should get. Lastly, I think that the professional development should be done at the end of August before school starts so they can use what is learned all year long.

Sboro Mom
8 years ago

Yes, stick to the original discussion–the proposed school calendar.

Concerned Citizen
8 years ago

Why hasn’t anyone brought up the fact that the Jews will loose two holy days in the school year? Why must the muslim always start trouble. Leave the Jew alone. Why haven’t any rabbis or conservative Jews spoke up? Dr. Gobron (who I respect tremendously) mentioned muslims and hindus. Those are not traditional US observed religions. Why are we once again bashing the Jew? I see tremendous bashing of the Jewish people, nation and religion worldwide again. I don’t see the Jew killing hindus (india) or muslims (everywhere). It is just the opposite all around the world. Did you ever ask yourself why the world has to pick on the JEW? 2% maybe of the worldwide population? Perhaps the Jew is right and they were and are Gods original chosen people and client nation. Why else the bigotry everywhere toward the Jew? “Beware of not studying history or there upon we are doomed to repeat it in ignorance”. Leave the holy days in place and lets continue to celebrate diversity. And Rabbi and Jew, you must, you should, speak up for yourselves as well. BTW, I am not a Jew but love the Jewish people and the Jewish nation.

A mom
8 years ago

We need to not be making blanket statements about “the Muslim”, just as for people of any religion or ethnicity.

Sboro Mom
8 years ago
Reply to  A mom

We need to end this thread. It has gone way off topic!

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Sboro Mom

yes, it’s probably time. That comment did need addressing, however.

southsider
8 years ago

Interesting that you capitalize Jew but never capitalize Muslim or Hindu or India no matter how often you use the words. There’s no mistaking your point of view.

A mom
8 years ago

I tried to send an email with some thoughts to the email address given in the article, but was notified it was undeliverable. Perhaps the address is incorrect?

A mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

Thanks, I’ll try again.

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