After listening to parents for a 90 minutes, Payson Unified School District (PUSD) Superintendent Ron Hitchcock learned that the school schedule remains a hot topic.
Nine parents attended the second Parent Advisory Council meeting during which Hitchcock had hoped to address both the school schedule and a survey for district parents to decide what needs improvement.
However, the schedule discussion and the way it disrupts family plans hijacked the meeting.
“My pet peeve is during fall break,” said Laurel Wala. “We’ve always taken a family vacation during those two weeks. This year the high school band had three hours of practice each day; cross-country had practice and the Academic Decathlon team met too. My son was basically at school from 8 until 5.”
She said her family solved the issue by leaving her son behind, which did not make her or the family happy.
Hitchcock convened the Parent Advisory Council two months ago to address concerns parents have brought to him or presented directly to the board during the constituent comment period of its meetings.
One parent has come to school board meetings twice to complain that the July start date of the school year penalizes her son who plays competitive sports.
She said many sports have summer training camps that go through July and often into August, since most schools start either in mid-August or after Labor Day.
Hitchcock agreed that PUSD has one of the most unusual schedules in Arizona.
“Our district has control over when our breaks are,” he said, “That being said, Payson is in the minority in Arizona for fall break.”
The new schedule Hitchcock brought to the meeting for discussion had nothing to do with school breaks. The board will vote on the proposed new schedule on Dec. 17 to increase the number of instructional days by removing the two half days per month currently on the schedule for teacher in-service.
Teachers need in-service to keep their certifications up to date. Just like other professions, teachers must keep up on new teaching techniques and changes in laws and curriculum as the profession evolves.
Hitchcock said the new schedule would increase the number of instructional days from 161 to 179.
The parents agreed that would help. Some said that teachers say the half days disrupt the tempo of the classroom. Others said their children learned nothing during the shortened school days.
“There are so many issues this group can be at the forefront of,” said Hitchcock. “You can simply have your own variation of the calendar (to suggest to the board).”
Parents joined the council in hopes of making a difference.
“I really enjoy being highly involved in my kids’ lives,” said Holly Brandenburg, a parent of a Julia Randall Elementary student. “I want to know as much as possible about how things are going for them at school, it’s important to have a say and an impact.”
The next Parent Advisory Council meeting will be at 5 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 17 in the district office. For any question, please call the district office at (928) 474-2070.