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Mecklenburg trustees eye overhaul of school calendar / March 19, 2014
Mecklenburg County students would attend school for 170 days instead of the current 166, if the proposed 2014/15 school calendar is adopted by the School Board at the April meeting.

If adopted, the school year would begin Aug. 18 and run through May 15. The school day for all grades would go from 8:45 a.m.-3:35 p.m. This marks a change for elementary students, who this school year have begun their day at 8:15 a.m.

Looking to avoid the need to adjust the calendar due to snow and weather emergencies, the School Board is proposing to build in five snow days. Additional snow make-up days will occur between May 19 and May 29, if needed.

The calendar includes two days for parent/teacher conferences — Oct. 22 and March 18 — nine teacher work days and 12 professional development days for teachers and staff.

Superintendent of Schools James Thornton did not discuss whether the schools would open early for students whose parents must be at work before the 8:45 a.m. start time. However, staff start time is set at 7:45 a.m.

Presenting the draft calendar to school board members, Personnel Director Laura Pittard said the proposed calendar is a compromise between parents who wanted a 166-day calendar and school faculty and staff who favored a 180-day calendar.

In other business at their meeting this week, School Board trustees adopted a new policy pertaining to the distribution of printed materials to students by non-school groups.

Policy 2-2.3 provides that any non-school group, organization, corporation, individual, club or association that wishes to distribute any non-curricular printed material may do so once each semester, but only after submitting it for prior approval by the Superintendent, and at a table set up by the school.

The table must contain a sign that reads “free materials on this table are offered by [insert name of distributing party]. These materials are not authored or endorsed by Mecklenburg County Public Schools.”

Also, Park View High School’s liaison to the school board, Cameron Hawkins, said after meeting with elementary and middle school students from the east end of the county, she learned that “bullying is a huge concern at each school.” Therefore, she and Bluestone High School’s school board liaison Davon Moody would like to develop a program aimed at helping those students who are being bullied.

Trustee Sandra Tanner suggested the School Board spend $2,500 annually to purchase a policy manual developed by the Virginia School Board Association. Wagstaff said she concurred with Tanner’s view that the current policy manual is confusing.

Thornton said VSBA policies are vetted nationally and at the state level, and are updated after each general assembly.

Tracey Rogers asked trustees to allow the school system to continue to participate in a consortium with several other counties to obtain Title III funding in the amount of $5,452.59. This money will be used for additional tutoring services for English as Second Language (ESL) students.

Kristy Somerville presented the school’s application for Carl Perkins grant money for the coming year. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act — reauthorized in 2006 — provides federal funds to increase focus on the academic achievement of career and technical education students, strengthen connections between secondary and postsecondary education, and improve state and local accountability.

Karla Gravitt and Heather Tuck presented at the North Carolina Scaling STEM Strategies that Engage the Mind Conference on Feb. 17 and 18. As a result, Gravitt said, “We were able participate in keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and industry roundtables with STEM professionals. This conference reminded us of the 21st century skills necessary for our students to be successful in the workforce.

Tuck added, “Educators benefited from learning about problems professionals are facing, and how they met those challenges. What we are doing [for our students with PBL] is the right thing.”

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