KINGMAN - Laurie Voss Barthlow didn't mind playing devil's advocate last week when the Kingman Unified School District Governing Board met for a workshop about proposed changes to the school calendar next year.
Barthlow, a member of the board, said she had received six very vocal emails from teachers protesting the change from a traditional calendar to a 45-10 calendar and wanted to make sure it would not come too quickly for the district's staff. Some teachers have complained that the new schedule would be too much, too soon on top of other changes that took place last year.
The district has spent the last two months presenting the proposed schedule change, which it emphasizes is not year-round school, to teachers and parents during three town hall meetings at area schools. The board will vote on the schedule at 5:30 p.m. today during a meeting at the KUSD administration building, 3033 MacDonald Avenue in Kingman.
"I am sympathetic to the teachers who are feeling overwhelmed," said Barthlow. "Should we entertain the thought of taking another year to implement this? I realize the board has brought down a blizzard of change for the teachers. And it's difficult for me to turn away from teachers I respect and trust. It's important for me to take the time to represent them because they're the conduit to the students."
Under the new schedule, which would last 180 days, students would have a two-week break in the spring and the fall, a regular winter break and a six-week break in the summer. Currently, students attend school for 180 days, but have one week off in the spring and the fall and nine weeks off during the summer.
"We're making these changes in order to change the way we're going," said board member Jeri Brock. "To me, a two-week break every quarter is a perk in lieu of a pay raise. I appreciate our teachers but this isn't about the teachers. It's about the students. And until the system works, we haven't changed enough."
Surveys to teachers and parents throughout the district showed that parents preferred the traditional school calendar over the proposed 45-10 calendar by 1,099 to 363. But teachers favored the 45-10 calendar over the traditional calendar by 251 to 133.
"There's nothing more anyone can bring to the table," said Jeri Wolsey, curriculum director for KUSD. "The discussion and data will be the same in a year. We sent surveys out and the teachers loudly said they prefer the 45-10 calendar. We have so many teachers coming to us and saying this is the best thing ever. So to say wait a year because of a few vocal teachers who don't want it would be a mistake."
KUSD Superintendent Roger Jacks agreed, noting that academically, teachers' workdays won't look any different than they do now. In fact, extra tutoring time, called intersessions, would be available for students needing help during the two weeks added to the schedule in the spring and fall. Jacks said he is still surprised that the calendar committee actually chose to pursue a 45-10 school year instead of sticking with the traditional schedule.
Board member Bruce Ricca said that on the whole, most people don't like change and when they hear it may be coming, will say they don't want it. Board member Debbie Francis agreed, adding that once the teachers experience the new schedule and see how it benefits them, there won't be so much negativity about it. Board members agreed their focus is on providing the best education possible for the students, not on making the teachers comfortable.