By Lisa Capobianco
The Southington Board of Education voted 5 to 4 in favor of the new proposed school calendar for 2014-2015, providing teachers more time for professional development.
The new calendar displays nine early release days for professional development from September to May as well as full days for professional development in August, November and February.
“We know that next year is going to be a burdensome year with everybody in regards to professional development,” said Southington school Supt. Dr. Joe Erardi during the Board of Education meeting last week. “We have talked about time and anxiety, and that is still an issue across the district.
Students will not have to report to school on the full days of professional development, leaving teachers six hours to develop new skills and to work together. On early release days, students will leave school earlier, giving teachers 2 hours to collaborate, to share ideas and to work together as a team.
“I am in full support as is, providing that it is a one year, calendar that there are no assumptions that this will continue every year,” said board member Terry Lombardi, who voted in approval.
“It is very important, especially next year when we’re going to be getting into so many new things with Common Core—the new Smarter Balanced testing,” added school board member Terri Carmody. “The teachers need this.”
Board members Patricia Johnson, David Derynoski and Zaya Oshana did not vote in favor of the proposed calendar. Although they agreed that teachers in the district need more time for professional development, they expressed concern about the lost instructional time for students in the classroom.
“I understand how valuable professional development is,” said Johnson, during the meeting. “On the other hand, I think that perhaps some of these full days for professional development times could be given back to the students.”
Board member Patricia Queen, who voted in favor of the school calendar as proposed, said lost instructional time in the classroom on professional development days means students can learn in other ways outside the classroom.
“Direct instructional time is not the only time students are learning,” Queen said. “This could be a time for students to work on long-term projects…or pursue an individualized learning opportunity.”
Chairperson Brian Goralski, who did not vote in favor of the calendar as proposed, suggested before the Board to eliminate one professional development day for a compromise. However, the majority voted to keep the calendar as presented.
Goralski said the additional professional development days will compensate for lost time in the classroom, as teachers continue to strengthen their skills together.
“The lost instructional time will be made up with quality,” Goralski said.
Assistant Superintendant Karen Smith told Board members that she will keep track on how the additional days professional development are utilized, collecting data to share in the future. Smith said agendas will be developed for the professional development days and she will administer online surveys that will be tailored to each individual activity that the teachers take part in.