NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 27, 2012

Early start to school year

Committee upholds controversial half-days in calendar

NEWBURYPORT — Despite growing concerns among parents and some city leaders over the number of early-release days at city schools every year, the scheduled professional days will continue through at least 2015.

A proposal by Mayor Donna Holaday and others to eliminate at least three of the 10 annual half-days was dropped last week in large part due to the objections of the teachers union, which argued that the days were needed to comply with new state teacher evaluations and common core initiatives.

The issue was raised in recent weeks because the School Committee was forced to approve both the 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 school calendars last week in order to plan two upcoming school building projects around vacation schedules.

Eliminating some of the half-days from the calendar had been discussed during early deliberations leading up to the two-year calendar vote.

But last week, School Committee members voted on a schedule that prioritizes beginning the 2013/2014 school year before Labor Day in order to add more construction days to the back end of the academic calendar.

Newburyport Teachers Union President Pat Levitt urged the committee to take early-release days off the table given the concessions teachers were making by altering their contract terms to accommodate the pre-Labor Day start.

“I would like to speak in favor of early-release days, which are critical to different things that are now coming down the pike at us to improve student achievement …,” Levitt said.

Levitt said teachers this year are having to adapt to a new evaluation system that involves adopting new assessment measures and ways of collecting data and tracking student growth, increasing their community involvement and complying with a new common core system.

“We can’t do all of this in the contracted time we have unless we have early-release days to do it,” Levitt said.

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