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Mecklenburg County school board ponders changes in school day

SoVaNow.com / February 20, 2013
Mecklenburg County is considering changes to its school day to give teachers more time for planning and to increase the hours spent on core classes such as science and social studies.

The proposed changes come from a survey of teachers that showed that they wanted to devote more classroom time to history and science lessons, allow for more collaborative time with special education teachers and either eliminate or shorten the period known as the “X block.”

Thornton said studies have shown that secondary students — those in middle and high school — often have a higher GPA and perform better on tests if their school day starts later. To satisfy these needs, Thornton is proposing a school day that starts at 8:45 a.m. and ends at 3:35 p.m. for the middle and high schools. Elementary students would arrive at school at 8:15 a.m. and depart at 3:35 p.m.

Seventy-three percent of teachers who answered the survey favored this schedule, because it satisfies state mandates for classroom hours, allows additional time for core subjects and ensures that teachers are working collaboratively as a team with all students in the classroom.

Thornton also suggested that the School Board consider changing the grading scale to a 10-point scale. “Currently, our secondary school students earn grades based on a 7-point grading scale. Several school divisions in Virginia have transitioned to a 10-point grading scale. We are investigating the transition to a 10-point grading scale for secondary students.”

Bluestone Principal Kristy Somerville, who made the presentation, said there are several possible benefits from changing from a 7-point to a 10-point scale, including increased scholarship opportunities and consistency with post-high school grading systems, since most colleges and universities are on a 10-point grading scale.

In other business from the School Board meeting Monday night, Kim Jennings, with Champions, presented information on before- and after-school programs run by her company. Jennings said the programs are designed to assist students and enrich students.

The company’s website says Champions has over 30 years of experience serving children and delivering “right-at-school programs” that includes dedicated homework time, and offers students a chance to participate in drama, art, music, sports or other activities in a “safe, education-based environment.”

Parents will pay for the services, which will be provided at the school sites. Thornton said this “is an alternative for parents who need to drop off children very early in the morning and are not home early enough in the afternoon.”

Schools in Virginia that currently have the Champions program charge parents nearly $80 per week for both before and after school care.

In other business, Jalisa Fulwood was named February Senior of the Month at Bluestone High School.

Assistant Superintendent John Keeler noted, “Fulwood currently has a GPA of 3.92 and strives to be the best in each of her classes. She is currently a member of the yearbook committee, drum major of the band, basketball cheerleader, president of DECA, vice president of BETA, soccer manager, robotics team, book club, the ACE team, Monogram Club, Forensics, president of the Ecology Club, Ecology Team, and Senior Class treasurer. She was also a proud recipient of an academic jacket this fall.”

Teachers described Fulwood as “a model student” and as a “dedicated, loving and caring person.”

Upon graduation, Fulwood plans to attend a four year university, majoring in business.

Daniel Benjamin Cooke was named Park View High School’s Senior of the Month for February 2013.

Cooke is active in Beta Club, Academic Bowl, and attends Governor’s School. He is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. In his community, Cooke is a member of Bethany Baptist Church, where he participates in their youth group. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, hiking, and camping in the mountains. He also likes model shipbuilding and rocketry.

After graduation, Cooke will attend Virginia Tech’s School of Engineering to pursue a degree in civil engineering.

Several teachers nominated Daniel for this honor. Louise Puryear, his economics teacher, said, “He is one of the nicest students I have ever taught. He comes to class every day with a smile and never complains about any assignment he is asked to do. He is a very conscientious student and strives to do his best in class. He possesses many great qualities inside the classroom as well as outside the classroom. He is a responsible young man, and very trustworthy. He works hard, is very cooperative, well-motivated, respectful and very mannerable.”

The Senior of the Month Program honors students who have made outstanding contributions to their school and/or community through their actions and the examples they set for others through acts of courage, determination, kindness, and sacrifice. The students are nominated by staff members and are selected by the members of the Senior of the Month committee.

February has been designated as School Board Appreciation Month. Personnel Supervisor Nan Alga took a moment to thank the members of the School Board and School Board Secretary Sharon Shuttleworth for their hard work, dedication and commitment to Mecklenburg County Public Schools.

Several student groups from South Hill Elementary and one from Park View Middle School gave presentations to the Board, including three kindergarteners from South Hill Elementary, who read their own compositions.

Finally, Thornton asked trustees to consider giving the Buckhorn Elementary School building back to the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors. He said there is no known current or future need for the building. Trustee Glenn Edwards asked Thornton to consider holding a sale at the school to dispose of all surplus materials currently stored there. He also suggested extracting a promise from the Board of Supervisors that the proceeds from the sale of the school would be earmarked for future school capital improvements.

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I hope that the school system takes a closer look at an earlier start time for Elementary students. Many parents need to be a work at 8:00 a.m. and are unable to afford before school care. Teachers are on-board with this plan simply because Thorton has proposed before school care for teacher's children in the labs.


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