By Ann Needle

Last night, the Nashoba School Committee was asked to consider a substantially different school calendar for next year, in order to give teachers more time for planning and professional development. The Committee appeared willing to consider the proposed changes.

In presenting the Nashoba Calendar Committee’s two proposed calendars for the 2014/15 school year, Superintendent Michael Wood explained that neither version included his proposal to give teachers more half days for professional development, along with more teaching time before the spring MCAS and national PARCC exams.

To do this, Wood asked the Committee to schedule a half day off in each week that doesn’t otherwise contain a holiday or full professional development day, and to eliminate February vacation.  The half-days would not apply to Nashoba Regional High School as it would cut in to the required 990 teaching hours required for these students, he said.

Wood also noted in his report to the Committee that he left these proposals off of the suggested calendars, because most of the district would find them “not popular.” But, throughout Committee meetings this school year, Wood maintained that time-consuming changes, such as new assessment systems for both students and staff, would call for more training time for teachers next school year. And, some high-performing districts (including Acton-Boxborough) already do this successfully, he added.

As for possibly cutting February vacation, Wood pointed to other districts outside the Northeast that have trimmed out the break, something that could buy more time in the warm weather during years with many snow days. However, he acknowledged the move could create conflicts with Nashoba families who also have children in schools outside the district, and with sporting events normally held that week.

“The best reason, frankly, is we would have another week of education before some pretty big assessments,” Wood said.

Several Committee members nodded agreement with eliminating February break, asking if and why district parents objected to exchanging a break for an earlier end to the school year. The Calendar Committee’s Monica Visco responded that, in past years, “There has been no support for eliminating any of the breaks.” On this year ‘s Nashoba parent survey, Visco said, “There are very few people in favor of eliminating the vacations.”

In other possible changes, both versions of the calendar would eliminate spring parent/teacher conferences for the middle and high schools. The calendar Wood supports would keep the full P/T conference day in the spring in the elementary schools, and the alternate calendar would eliminate it. And, the alternate would keep Election Day (November 4) a P/T conference day, while the supported version would give everyone the day off, which the district’s town clerks have requested.

Both calendars have school opening for students August 27, and ending June12, without snow days, though this would change if February break is eliminated.

The Committee is reviewing the two calendars, and will come back with comments — and, possibly, take a vote — at its December17 meeting.

Hale Happenings, etc.
Presenting the Hale School Council’s periodic report, Principal George King reported the Council should finish its updated School Improvement Plan this month. Students also participated in world-wide Purple Pinkie Day on October 24, sponsored locally by the Rotary Club of Nashoba Valley. During the day, each dollar students donated purchased a polio vaccine for a child in high-risk areas of the world.

Michael Wood reported that the state’s secretary of education will be visiting the high school Friday, as part of a tour of the state’s schools. He remarked, “We found this out on Monday.”

As the Committee continued updating its policies, it unanimously voted in minor changes last night to policies regarding School Committee By-Laws; School Councils and Site Based Management; Evaluation of School and District Administration; and Administration in Absence of Policy or Procedure.

Fiscal watchers may want to note that the district plans to present its proposed 2014/15 budget at the Committee’s January 28 meeting. Wood asked administrators to have their proposed budgets to him by December break.

Finally, Wood announced he will soon be hosting a cable television show on Bolton TV. Unsure of the precise details of the education-oriented agenda, Wood said he also may need to add in some funding for content for the show in the 2014/15 budget.  He also mentioned he is working on connecting the show with Stow and Lancaster TV.