The hot-button issue for the Oklahoma City Public Schools board Monday was what kind of calendar to fashion in the future that might work better at achieving financial and student achievement goals.
A school’s calendar is much more complex than most organizations in that it determines how education processes will be staged.
“There is no magic calendar. If there was, everyone would be using it.”
OKCPS board member Carrie Coppernoll nicely summed up the problem for any district seeking to find a better schools calendar design.
Her statement was in response to the struggle the district is having in trying to discern what design of calendar the district will use in the future to achieve three big goals:
- Save money in the era of budget cuts,
- Provide support for higher student achievement,
- Create an incentive for the hardest-working teachers to stay with one of the most demanding districts in the state.
Supt. Aurora Lora recommended that the district stay with the current continuous learning calendar for next year while a committee develops calendars for the three years after that.
That was the proposal on the agenda, and so a yes or no vote on the proposal would still not involve changing to a traditional calendar as earlier news media reports had suggested.
Human resources director Janis Perrault gave the presentation of the current calendar and two other possible calendars with pros and cons for each.
Board member Charles Henry pushed for the district to change the calendar this year to start later in mid-August, but take days away from each break, adding 18 more instruction days to the calendar.
He was especially intent to see the calendar “front load” those days before April testing so that students could be better prepared to take state-mandated tests.
“We need to spend as much time in school as possible,” Henry said. “Our district is failing. Our district is an embarrassment to the state and to the nation.”
Board member Rebecca Budd agreed with Henry that student achievement should be the No. 1 goal.
But her focus was more on remediation which has been at the center of calendar discussions since the current continuous learning calendar was finally adopted district-wide in 2011-2012 school year.
Ruth Veales was on the board when the concept was first piloted by one elementary in 2001-2002, then spread to other elementaries and then middle and high schools.
She said that an original emphasis of the three-week breaks in the calendar was to give the district time to remediate students in intersessions that would be offered during the breaks.
Veales expressed dismay Monday about the lack of intersession offerings. She repeated concerns she has expressed in the past that the continuous learning model in OKCPS has never lived up to its original promise.
Budd openly asked if the district was moving away from intersession with some of the modified calendars being considered.
Budd then proposed that since intersession has not worked as planned, the money spent on intersession should be diverted to other more targeted remediation methods that would take advantage of the regular school day.
Vice-chair Gloria Torres agreed with Budd that there are more digital solutions for doing remediation and encouraged the administration to pursue those.
After lengthy discussion, the board voted 7-1 for Lora’s proposal to stay with the continuous calendar through next year as a committee develops calendars for the next three years after that.
For more information you may watch the entire board proceedings on the district’s YouTube Channel.