News

School board to vote on 2011-12 calendar

Officials propose 'rollover' schedule for next year, but seek pre-break finals the following year

The Palo Alto school board Tuesday will be asked to vote on a "rollover" academic calendar for next year that is nearly identical to the district's calendar this year -- but officials still want to switch first semester final exams to December in the following year, 2012.

After angry parents derailed a Nov. 9 vote on a calendar calling for pre-break finals starting next year, officials went back to the drawing boards.

This week, they're proposing the "rollover" calendar for next year, while still seeking a compromise that would allow for pre-break finals the following year.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly and a majority of school board members have said they support pre-break finals as a way to give students an assignment-free winter break.

Most other local high schools, including Los Altos, Mountain View, Menlo-Atherton, Woodside, St. Francis, Castilleja and Menlo have moved in that direction.

The only way to achieve December finals while still preserving the August vacation time demanded by parents is by having a short first semester and a second semester that is as much as 20 days longer.

Before proposing such uneven semesters, Palo Alto officials said they need time for further discussion with students, teachers and administrators. They said they expect to have calendar proposals for 2012-13 and possibly 2013-14 by February.

However they will discuss general ideas about 2012-2014 calendars at Tuesday's meeting.

In "sample" calendars for those years, officials propose school start dates of Aug. 21 in 2012 and Aug. 20 in 2013. The first semester would end Dec. 21 and Dec. 20, respectively, and the last day of school would be June 6 in 2013 and June 5 in 2014.

For next year, Skelly proposes a school start date of Tuesday, Aug. 23. Dec. 16 would be the last day of school before winter break, with classes resuming Jan. 3 and first-semester finals scheduled for Jan. 17 to 19. The last day of school would be June 7, 2012.

In other business Tuesday, the board will elect officers for the coming year; vote on changing the status of the Mandarin Immersion Program from "pilot" to "ongoing;" discuss tentative agreements with employee unions and hear a report on the district's finances.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

Comments

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Posted by kc
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2010 at 11:22 am

Does this mean the 1st semester classes will be crammed into the shorter time and the 2nd semester classes will last 20 days longer?? How is this working???

Why can't we start earlier and get out earlier. So many parts of the country do it this way.

We need to be flexible...Flexible thinkers and a different mindset are needed.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2010 at 11:34 am

KC -

Most parents do not want an earlier start date nor do they want to get out of school in May. Many parts of the country do not start til after Labor Day, or at least wait until September begins.

Elementary students are on a trimester systems, so they are totally unaffected.

Middle School classes are a year long except for some electives. Semester long electives (art, drama, etc.) are not academic so the difference in time should be immaterial. Music and World Language are year long electives.

High school classes are mostly a year long. Having the second semester be longer really only affects HS students taking semester long classes. The only challenging ones would be history Sophomore and Senior year and English Junior and Senior year. Like middle school, the semester long electives which are not academic. Second semester also has STAR testing and AP testing in the schedule, AP testing uses up 10 of the 20 days.


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Posted by Disappointed
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I'm disappointed that after all this work, waiting, and discussion, a real decision won't be made tomorrow night and students will have to suffer with postbreak finals again in 2011-12 and possibly beyond. Just wondering: Is this type of indecisiveness and inaction typical of the Palo Alto school board?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Already we are swamped with projects and end of unit tests and the semester doesn't end for weeks. It would be miserable if the semester was ending before break also.

This is supposed to be the happiest time of the year with lots of fun family and social celebrations. I don't want my kids to miss out on the happy memories of the holidays because they have to study for finals. Please keep things the way they are.


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Posted by Yawn
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Yawn..I am so shocked. No action again. The screamers won out over good sense, again. Can't let the kids have a real rest over winter break, that simply won't do! Other things like August vacation time are so much more important.

Much better this way...those who are academically competitive can continue to have work/finals hang over their heads all Winter Break. Those who aren't can work all Break to catch up enough to pass...and those who just can't find the time to do their work before Break because of critical sports and performing arts obligations, can also use this time to catch up.

End result, our kids don't get a real rest.

And yes, Disappointed, this is what happens here. Common sense is not great on our list of assets. We have many, but not that one.

Folks like "parent' above want their kids to extend their work over Break so that they don't have the misery of actually finishing BEFORE break, and the tremendous life lesson that comes with the critical skill we had the chance to teach our kids...work toward a deadline, finish, then REST.Other folks get to keep their critical 3rd week of August time off for traveling..so many of us think that is much more important than letting our kids rest!

Yawn..not surprised one bit.


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Yawn

I suppose it all depends on what you define as rest.

Perhaps you want your kids to be able to sleep til noon, watch tv reruns and play video games.

I think there are many of us who want our kids to be able to join in with holiday events, carol singing, family theater outings, visit with grandparents, help at religious events, help with charitable giving drives, bake for holiday parties for veterans, attend parties, school concerts, etc. etc. that take place in December during the holidays, not after Christmas and into January.

Making memories at these events are very important and will benefit our kids, sleeping every day until noon and being bored will not.

I happen to like it the way it is. Christmas and the preparations are important and we have a lot of homework to do anyway. It is better to have exams in January when it is dead and easier for the kids to concentrate rather than now when there is so much else going on.


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Posted by Duv Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2010 at 9:40 pm

I think "yawn" is being sarcastic but I totally agree.


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Posted by BoE is spineless
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 7, 2010 at 1:56 am

This is insane! We were on the verge of having pre-break finals next year until a minority screamed?! Did they threaten the BoE and Skelly or something?! I'm guessing that most of the screamers were elementary school parents, the way they campaigned for people to write to the BoE. And now we won't have pre-break exams next year. Yeah, let's see how many more stressed-out-students-on-the-verge we can rack up meanwhile.

Why don't they consider having the last day of school before break be closer to Christmas rather than on the 16th? That would add more days to first semester - duh.


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Posted by Yawn
a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 7, 2010 at 5:01 am

To Parent:

And all parents who fought this who have never had kids in High School (yet)

I hope you enjoy all the time they have to do all those wonderful pre-Christmas things with you when they are in high school..

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

In the meantime, I, personally, will be laughing when I hear the complaints next spring, again, of stressed out kids who are exhausted, depressed, sick..and thinking of a "way out" of their misery.

I simply no longer care. I have no more skin in the game, and many of us who used to have skin in the game and had kids who suffered through it were trying to teach you younger ones how to avoid some of the pain we had with our kids.

Have fun with your short term thinking!




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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 7, 2010 at 6:50 am

I have two kids graduated high school, I know how miserable they would be if there were exams as well as everything else they have to do in December. I also know that once Christmas is over they get bored and spend most of their break in bed. I also know that they complain that most of their friends are - wait for it - signed up for extra tutoring to get a head start for the next semester. Some rest!


Like this comment
Posted by Paly Student
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 7, 2010 at 8:55 am

"In the meantime, I, personally, will be laughing when I hear the complaints next spring, again, of stressed out kids who are exhausted, depressed, sick..and thinking of a "way out" of their misery." Come on... is the current system really that bad? It's been in place for countless years and it seems to work. I don't celebrate the holidays, but moving break a week back would be very stressful for students that do celebrate and more importantly make the first semester and second semesters less enjoyable.

December is already stressful as it is. Moving finals before break would cram the first semester so that it is both unpleasant and unproductive. With so few instructional days, teachers would grant students far fewer time to study for finals and would continue to five work and teach new material until a week or so before finals (which no longer has a most useful three-day weekend preceding it for us Paly students). Also, the claim that most (I say this to avoid an absolute) students spend their breaks for finals is false. None of my friends or classmates spent more than 2 days of their entire break studying for finals. Yes, they did spend days working on other school projects (but read my next paragraph about that). In fact, as Parent said above, those students who end up staying at home spend most of their break days waking up at noon, watching TV, studying for SATs, hanging out with friends, cleaning up their rooms :), and going out. This being said, they might spend the last weekend before school starts to get their focus back on scholastic endeavors, but this will be the case even with pre-break finals giving the barrage of work that students will be inundated with as soon second semester starts.

Also... Even if we do finals before break... students will still face considerable work over break. Just because they took their final exams, does not mean that they will not be bombarded by projects, papers, and books over break. The district does have a no-homework policy over break, but many many many teachers circumvent it. Wouldn't it be more important to mandate that teachers simply not give homework or projects over break? And if so... should we even be tackling student stress through the calendar? Wouldn't keeping the current calendar and mandating no homework over break mean less work before break and less work over break.

Personally, I would like PAUSD (high schools in particular) to follow the system that institutions of learning in the East Coast have. Start in September or even after Labor Day (in Fall, NOT Summer). Have winter break as it currently is. Move finals back two weeks to the last week of January or first week of February so that students have 3-4 weeks to study when they get back from a true vacation. Enforce a "zero-tolerance" no-homework/project policy over break. This proposal would also be more in line with the elementary/middle schools unlike the past proposal which would leave parents scrambling for childcare in the first weeks of January and June. And no, this proposal would not have negative repercussions on AP classes. Many of the great East Coast schools do it, with students taking far more AP exams. I can also safely say (having taken a considerable number) that in all but one we finished a month or more before the exam). In AP Chem, we were done by the end of 1st semester.


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Posted by that train's left
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 7, 2010 at 8:57 am

"This is insane! We were on the verge of having pre-break finals next year until a minority screamed?! "

BiS, you are unable to point to any evidence to back up this claim. In fact, we were on the verge of having pre-break finals next year until the *majority* of parents spoke spoke up against it.
At the last board meeting it was 30-0. In emails it was 300-80 against the proposal.
If there is a problem here, it is that the staff are not doing their job properly.
This whole episode has been purely an experiment by Skelly that isn't supported in any way by the vast majority of parents in this district.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 7, 2010 at 9:20 am

People often promote their narrow views rather than looking comprehensively at the issue and having the board take a decision. I look at this from the perspective of an experienced parents of grads and I certainly can see some reasonable arguments on both sides of the issue (aside from the narrow self-interests), HOWEVER I was interested to learn of all the districts around here, including many very reputable ones, that have moved finals before Winter Break and they have been pleased with that action. But oh, no, Palo Alto has to be difficult and "stuck" in a spot once again. Personally I put some stock in benchmarking but that isn't the Palo Alto way.


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Posted by BoE is spineless
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 7, 2010 at 9:27 am

"At the last board meeting it was 30-0." Squeaky wheel syndrome. Skelly and the BoE insinuated they were in favor of pre-break finals thus proponents did not attend the meeting,

"In emails it was 300-80 against the proposal." This is misinformation, and again, with Skelly claiming favor to pre-break finals, only the opposition wrote emails.

I read that Paly students supported pre-break finals. They are the valuable voices, not the parents who micromanage their schedules.

I think most of the opposition was toward the calendar beginning earlier, not opposition of pre-break finals. The surrounding schools are happy with pre-break finals. Palo Altans think their children are so unique that they can handle more stress than the other students?




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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 7, 2010 at 10:09 am

One big difference between Paly and Gunn and the surrounding public high schools is the amount of kids who apply to private schools. The majority (90% is what I was told) of the other local high schools seniors apply to CSU/UC schools, their deadling is November 30th. Most of the private schools (which MANY PAUSD senior apply to) have a deadline of January 15. So the most of the other seniors are done with college apps, take their finals and are done for Winter Break. PAUSD kids will spend much of their Break doing private school apps which take TONS of time (my son's CSU applications took less than an hour to do, while just the essay for the private schools took a couple weeks).

The local private schools provide a lot more individual attention doing college applications, including setting time aside during the school day to work on applications. I know many seniors who are taking 6-8 classes, not much free time for apps.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 7, 2010 at 10:25 am

We don't know if the people who have spoken up so far on either side of the issue are a majority or not because the district proposed this change in finals placement without doing ANY research that had any objectivity or statistical validity. They didn't asses whether or not there is a problem affecting a significant number, whether the proposed shift would or would not address that problem, or anything that would give us useful data here. This change should not have been proposed before the research had been done; now the district has time to go back and do the research. I hope they will, but somehow I doubt it, and think all we'll still have will be anecdotal evidence, self-selected or badly conceived surveys, and the like. So yes, all the questions raised above will continue to be questions--and we'll be told to "try this experiment, we'll like it." I say we owe it to the kids who would be the subject of the "experiment" to do our homework first.


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Posted by that train's left
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 7, 2010 at 10:53 am

"I read that Paly students supported pre-break finals. They are the valuable voices, not the parents who micromanage their schedules."

That's right, because students run the district and know what's best. Eggs on Gunn campus, anyone?


Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 7, 2010 at 10:59 am

Actually, we don't know what Paly students think because there has been no properly designed survey done. Paly students have been asked, essentially "would pre-break finals be nice?" and aren't even 100 percent on that. They have also strongly indicated in similar nonscientific surveys that they definitely don't want to start earlier in August, or have uneven semesters. The "data" being bandied about is not what I would call "data".


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 7, 2010 at 11:15 am

Any survey of the students needs to include all the students and should include the consequences of the change. I'm sure if I asked the students if they wanted to get out of school at 1 everyday, most of them would think that was great. If I told them they would then have 4 weeks of summer break instead of 9, their answer might be different. Any survey needs to be complete.


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Posted by student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 7, 2010 at 11:48 am

To "that train's left":

Egging Gunn's campus is a completely different issue that has nothing to do with when finals are. As a student at Gunn, I definitely did not APPRECIATE the egging, but we've all moved on. I understand the point that students don't always make the best choices, but believe me, we understand where our stress lies. No, we don't run the district, but we are the most affected by any and every change to the schedule. If I am mature enough to get a driver's license, I think I am mature enough to understand that I will have stress regardless of when the finals actually occur. Many of my classes, especially AP and honors classes, have finals before break anyway in order to get as much curriculum in before AP testing as possible.

I don't spend stress-free time off school sleeping in and watching TV. I spend it performing, cleaning and cooking, and attending religious services before the holidays. I also manage to get 8 hours of sleep a night (a luxury during the school year). Please understand that I am very aware that everything I do, inside of school and outside of school, affects my chances at getting into college. Having finals before or after break does not affect that.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 7, 2010 at 11:57 am

I'm mildly inconvenienced by the early school starts since the finals issue is irrelevant at this point.

However, reading the arguments here, I like Paly student's idea--move the start back into September and schedule finals in later January.

Kids, then, aren't trying to manage finals and holiday celebrations in December and finals aren't hanging immediately over their heads the moment they get back to school.

It's worth pointing out that Hannukah fell at the beginning of December this year, so the whole get-finals-over before the holidays wouldn't work for many kids this year. (Diwali's even earlier).


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Posted by that train's left
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 7, 2010 at 1:16 pm

"No, we don't run the district, but we are the most affected by any and every change to the schedule."

And how many of the 12,000 students in the district do you speak for?


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Posted by BoE is spineless
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 7, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Agree with Gunn student. And the egging was not the entire student body.

@that train's left: rigid parents who micromanage their children have unhappy teenagers. Teens still need proper guidance but they need independence too. Show some respect. Teenagers should not be treated as marionettes. PAUSD giving parents the power to view their children's grades online is added stress for the students. If parents can't have dialogue with their teenagers about their grades, then they are pushing them too hard. The parents' duty is to be there for their high schoolers if they need help, not completely micromanage their lives, making decisions for them, telling them what to do every minute. Imagine someone nagging at you all the time. Makes you want to rebel, huh?


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Posted by that train's left,
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 7, 2010 at 1:51 pm

"And the egging was not the entire student body."

And the students that took the survey don't represent the entire student body. The total high-school student population is only ~30% of the student body.


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Posted by student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 7, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Honestly? I speak for myself, and don't claim to put words in anyone else's mouth. But I am also mature enough not to bring up other resolved issues in the hopes that it might sway anyone to my side.

Sure, 30% of students are in high school. But the younger students do eventually go to high school as well, and are thus affected. Do you expect a six or seven year old to understand the concept of high school finals, uneven semesters, balancing extracurriculars, and, in some cases, submitting college applications? It makes sense to have students with the experience of taking finals take the survey.


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Posted by Lurker
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 7, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Paly student:

"Move finals back two weeks to the last week of January or first week of February so that students have 3-4 weeks to study when they get back from a true vacation. "

Most private colleges require mid-year transcripts with a January deadline. The PAUSD first semester ends late compared to most high schools'. After finals, grades need to be posted to transcripts and transcripts sent out; that all takes time so delaying finals even later is not a good idea, IMHO.


Like this comment
Posted by Another Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2010 at 12:16 am

Any news from the meeting?


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Posted by that train's left
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2010 at 8:19 am

Student, there you have it. The reason you don't get to run the district. All summarized in your response.
My 8 year olds response when it was discussed over dinner (without any prompting) was: "Why don't just the high schools students start earlier, why do we have to?".
Come on, show your maturity - what's your answer to her?


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 9, 2010 at 8:36 am

Train - your 8 year old is pretty logical - I suspect the response would be that we are a unified school district and the union would have to agree to it (as they do any calendar changes). Not sure why the union should have to agree, but I'm not sure why the teacher union has to approve many of the things they do. We can't even require that they use the new online system, Infinite Campus, to communicate with parents and post grades.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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