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BoE says no to fall break, earlier start date
Official vote on the 2008-2009 calendar to happen at Dec. 20 regular meeting
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The Bryan County Board of Education has apparently decided to change the 2008-2009 school calendar back to this year’s start date, with the first day of school falling on Friday, Aug. 8, according to board member discussions during a called meeting on Monday, Dec. 3.

To accommodate that start date, they tentatively decided to pull the proposed fall break, which was slated for Oct. 13-17 next year.

The board will vote on the calendar during this month’s regular meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20 at 6 p.m.

"The calendar shows those couple weeks are when most school systems start. A lot of people around us started when we did (this year)," Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer said.

Not all board members were happy about the decision to table the calendar.

Board Vice President Frances Meeks said a great deal of professional work went into creating a calendar that would make the majority of the staff happy, but all the work was for nothing after the board voted to table the issue.

"All the work that (Brewer’s) put in, and all the other professionals, is just hogwash. It doesn’t count because a parent called you, that’s all that counted," she said.

Chairman Eddie Warren said he wanted the board talk about it first.

"We’re the ones who will have to answer for it. And we did not have that opportunity to discuss it," he said. "I like the way the calendar is now, with everyone starting in August. I respect the teachers’ opinion for a fall break, but they have to realize how that’s going to affect everybody else."

Judy Crosby said she did not agree with the proposed calendar for next year.

"The calendar we started school off with this year, we had a lot of flak on that but people have adjusted to it. I’m glad seven out of our nine schools certified staff want a fall break. But the only thing I can gather in all that I’ve heard, it’s because other counties are doing it. I’m sorry, Bryan County is not competing with other counties," she said, noting pre-k and kindergarten children need to be taken into consideration, because adjusting to school can be hard on some of them.

"I feel like we should just stick with the calendar we started with this year," she said. "We’re in the business to educate children, not to please everyone, because we’re never going to do it."

Jeff Morton pointed out that Aug. 1 is usually the first day of sports, which allows Bryan County students to have things like two-a-day practices. Starting earlier would put them at a disadvantage to other schools, he said.

"Maybe the idea of a fall break was floated out there, but I’m not sure if it was presented to (the teachers), ‘If you take a fall break, you have to start earlier,’" Morton said.

Joe Pecenka said he would lean toward keeping this year’s calendar schedule, noting it had a much less negative reaction than in previous years.

"I know seven out of the nine schools requested the break, but I’ve had one person contact me saying they like the break. Everyone else – a combination of teachers and parents – no one wants that break," he said.

Billy Mock said he felt parents want a longer summer vacation with their children and having a random week during the fall won’t allow the majority of parents to take time off from work to be with their children.

While Brewer said several teachers agreed a long weekend in October would be plenty, adding extra vacation has to be a week-long increment. Otherwise, it will make it impossible to schedule four days of staff pre-planning, followed by the first day of school on a Friday, which the teachers all said they wanted. Brewer said this schedule for the first week of school has been considered a "given."

Even after the school calendar discussion had ended, Meeks again raised the issue of voting on it during the called meeting. While Mock said he wouldn’t mind doing it as well, he pointed out the board had said during the last regular meeting they would vote on it Dec. 20.

"I think the reason we need to vote on this calendar and get it out of the way today, is we need to stop the brouhaha," Meeks said, noting that it’s been a good school year so far, but the calendar has created an unnecessary issue, which she felt was deliberately created by Morton and Warren.

"We told everybody, and that’s the way it came out at the last meeting, that we would wait until the next regular meeting," Warren said. "That’s what I’m going to do, because that’s what I said I was going to do."

Morton said it was not right to vote on an issue during a called meeting when the majority of people were unaware of what was happening.

"Overall, it was a very productive meeting. We got to talk a lot about of the issues and got everybody’s opinion and that’s basically what we want. At the end, a couple board members said it was a great meeting and this is how it needs to be," Warren said.

Mary Warnell came to the meeting after the calendar discussion was over.

In other issues:

- The board is in the process of updating and improving their Code of Ethics. Tony Arasi of the Georgia School Board Association (GSBA) has worked with other school boards to determine their needs in this respect, Warren said. "We took our policies and the policy examples he gave us, and did a compilation of all of them," he explained.

Brewer said they also went online and found codes from surrounding counties, so the board had a chance in advance to review what other schools were using. "It took some time to work through everything, but I knew that it would. It’s easier to write something new than revise something you have. I don’t know anything that is more important for a group than a code of ethics; we pay great attention to it. That code was adopted in 1987 and there was nothing wrong with it, but we felt the need to update," she said, noting the finalized code will be online after their January meeting.

- The board agreed upon having extra workshops next year, where they won’t vote on issues but will have more time to discuss some of their bigger agendas. The workshops would be open to the public like called meetings, but would be used for additional discussion time. Brewer said 12 official meetings need to be set and that the agenda could be sent out earlier in draft form, to give the board more time to see what would be discussed at the meeting. Then a called meeting or workshop on a specific topic could be set before the meeting.

- Morton raised the idea of holding one of the three summer board meetings in the south end of the county, because they are all held in the north end, to allow parents in the south end to attend one of the summer meetings. The board decided that overall, more are held in the south end throughout the year so holding the summer meetings in Pembroke makes it easier, with Brewer having the availability of information at her office.

- Brewer said she has visited almost every class in the district this year, with her goal being to finish meeting each one of them before Christmas. "Nobody knows we’re coming," she said. "I’ve caught all of them being good." She’s invited the board to take a tour of schools from time to time to see how the children are doing. Warren said he would like to plan more visits so they can spend more time at each of the schools next year.

- All the board members will soon have business cards. "What we’re trying to do is let people understand what the protocol is," Warren explained. "If you have an issue or a problem, or if you have a compliment, what is the protocol you go through? As we meet people at the grocery story or post office, now we’ll have something to hand them with our contact information," he said, noting they will likely be made in-house.

Brewer said the cards will have the board member’s name, contact information, the school mission statement and, on the back, the protocol about how to raise questions, issues, or concerns.




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