Website Pushes School Calendar Switch
The Cobb Parents site says it's not too late to change the 2012-13 Cobb County School District schedule.
Backers of a balanced Cobb County School District calendar have launched a website in the hope of changing the schedule for next school year.
The goal is to persuade them to switch from the current traditional calendar to the balanced calendar the district used in 2010-11. The board dumped the balanced calendar with less than six months’ notice Feb. 17 on a 4-3 vote, and the Cobb Parents organizers hope for a repeat in reverse.
“There is a unique opportunity for Cobb County to come together to give input to the board on the 2012-2013 calendar,” said Thom Gray, a father of four, including three in Cobb County schools. “The board’s upcoming meetings in January and February are really the last time for the board to take the issue up and to reconsider the calendar for next year. It’s a good time for them to hear from the public on this because if the public’s opinion is overwhelming, then I think they need to put that into consideration.”
Gray has been a vocal critic of this year’s calendar change, and he and Mike Sansone co-filed an open-records complaint midyear with state Attorney General Sam Olens against three of the board members who voted for the more traditional calendar: Chairwoman Alison Bartlett of Marietta’s Post 7, Tim Stultz of Smyrna’s Post 2 and Kathleen Angelucci of North Cobb’s Post 4.
Vice Chairman Scott Sweeney of East Cobb’s Post 6 was the only one of the four who turned over all of the documents Gray and Sansone requested.
Bartlett and Sweeney couldn’t be reached for comment for this article.
A Cobb County grand jury that looked into the calendar controversy in the spring recommended that the district change its calendar only with a year’s notice, and many of the complaints about last year’s calendar change focused on vacation commitments that had already been made.
This school year started two weeks later in August than the balanced calendar did during the 2010-11 school year.
Lynn Louise Wonders, who has a child at Simpson Middle School and two children at Sprayberry High, emailed the board about her concerns regarding the late holiday break, which started Dec. 23 and runs through Jan. 9.
“Taking their first semester all the way up to the Christmas weekend has taken its toll on my children, my family, my clients and their families,” the mental health professional wrote in her Dec. 21 email. “There has been no opportunity for pre-holiday family rituals and togetherness.”
Although board member David Banks of East and Northeast Cobb’s Post 5 thought the timing of the website’s launch was bad because of the holidays, he said many people are upset.
“There is a lot of pent-up anger out there, and people are trying to find ways to do something,” Banks said. “They’re trying to find ways to convince the four people who voted against the balanced calendar to reconsider. I know where the vast majority of the people are in this county on this issue, and according to our policy, those four members are in violation of it because part of our policy is to listen to the will of the people, and they violated it.”
The board Dec. 8 unanimously approved Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's plan to form a 21-member committee in August to recommend the calendar for the 2013-14 school year by October. But that policy does not address the existing 2012-13 calendar.
Gray said he has seen the difference between last year’s balanced calendar and this year’s traditional calendar.
“What we saw with our kids in the course of last year is that their academic performance and academic experience were both improved with the balanced calendar,” he said. “At the point when they began to be tired, perhaps a bit burned out, there would be a break. After the break they were ready to go back to school, and they seemed energized and excited. What we saw of our teachers, they seemed to enjoy the same pattern as well.
"Being back on the calendar now with less frequent breaks, we can see that our kids were doing better and were more consistently excited about school than they have been this year.”
Through an open-records request, Gray found that in June, within two weeks of Banks’ request to put the balanced calendar back on the board agenda, more than 500 email messages were sent to board members.
More than 72 percent of those messages called for a calendar with the previous year’s breaks reinstated, even with only six weeks’ notice, Gray said.