Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 20, 2014

PUSD board approves new school calendar

Discussion includes parent survey results, feedback from trustees, community

by Amanda Aguilar

The Pleasanton school board approved the modified "lite" school calendar starting in 2015-16 following a two-hour report and discussion on calendar options Tuesday night.

Board trustees also asked the staff to negotiate with the district's bargaining units to agree to use a slightly different calendar in the first year to create a longer summer, which will also be used as a transition period to the new adopted calendar.

The vote was 4-1 Tuesday, with trustee Valerie Arkin in dissent, asking that the decision be delayed for another year to gather more data and feedback.

"I just don't see a compelling reason to do it for 2015-2016," she said.

The other four board members were in favor of the staff's suggested calendar option, finding it addresses the concerns of students' learning loss and stress levels, and achieves the primary objective of having the first semester ending at winter break.

Trustee Joan Laursen stated that learning loss affects all children and requires a significant amount of reteaching during the school year. "Starting early allows a longer window to teach students what they will be assessed on," she added.

The modified lite calendar would schedule school to begin early August and end late May. The calendar also includes a one-week break in October, the first semester ending before winter break and a nine-week summer break.

The current traditional calendar has school starting in late August and ending in mid-June, the first semester ending in January, and a 10-week summer break.

However, to allow for a more normal length summer break going into fall 2015, the board suggested the district negotiate with the bargaining units to schedule school to start the following week and have no October break in 2015-16.

Of the 3,000 parents who completed the school district's survey on calendar changes, 35% were in favor of the traditional schedule while 65% supported one of four new options on the table, according to district officials.

Fourteen parents and one high school student addressed the board with their opinions during the public comment session, with most in favor of the traditional calendar and two parents supporting modified lite or early start/finish calendars.

Most arguments against the modified calendar included:

* the importance of a long summer break for families

* other school districts start mid-August and still have first semester ending at winter break

* extracurricular activities would be affected

* more research and conversations with parents need to be done

* hot weather during August.

In addition, Pleasanton parent Rodney Roloff claimed the information presented to the board was not truthful.

Pleasanton parent Sherry Wight agreed, saying, "The statistics (from the parent survey results) were presented on a deceptive side."

Parents Kelly French and Mary Machi said they favored the calendar modification, explaining that the change is what's best for all kids, not just the high school students — who were a part of the rationale for modifying the calendar.

"They may not be a high school student now, but all our kids will eventually go through high school," French said.

In other business Tuesday night, the board unanimously approved the Local Control and Accountability Plan and the 2014-15 school district budget.

The board also adopted the "tentative agreement with the Association of Pleasanton Teachers", with trustee Jeff Bowser abstaining to vote, citing the public's concern of a conflict of interest due to his wife being a teacher and union official.

Also Tuesday, Arkin asked for a separate vote on a proposed updated contract for Luz T. Cazares, deputy superintendent and chief business official — an item originally on the consent agenda. The contract was subsequently approved 3-2, with Arkin and Hintzke voting "no."

Tuesday's closed session included the approval of extending Pleasanton schools superintendent Parvin Ahmadi's contract by one year.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. in the district boardroom, 4665 Bernal Ave.

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