After oodles of input, the Payson school board overhauled the school calendar by eliminating 19 half-days for teacher training, starting school on July 29, inserting a one-week fall break from Oct. 7-11, expanding the Thanksgiving holiday to a full week and keeping two-week winter and spring breaks.
The board decision came after a delay to let teachers weigh in on four alternative schedules, after teachers complained that changing the vacation schedules caused havoc with curriculum presentations and class trips.
Staff in December told the board that teachers needed more time to take the options to a vote, even after the Parent Advisory Committee, the Leadership Council made up of principals, and the Customer Service Advisory Council all made detailed recommendations.
Marlene Armstrong, the engineering teacher at the high school and careers teacher at the junior high, reported before the vote at the Jan. 14 meeting that two calendars received 105 votes and the other two received 57.
“Four calendars were up for a vote,” said Armstrong, “It’s difficult because the high school and elementary schools have different needs.”
However, everyone seemed to like the idea of replacing the 19 half-days for teacher professional development with five full days prior to the start of the school year.
Superintendent Ron Hitchcock didn’t offer an opinion during the meeting in December, but spoke up at the Jan. 14 meeting when four board members asked his opinion on which calendar would be best for student achievement.
“One (calendar) with 50 votes and over 100 against — I would like to leave it up to Mr. Hitchcock to figure out what’s best academically for students,” said new board member Jim Quinlan.
Longtime school board member Rory Huff agreed, “I would like Mr. Hitchcock to decide which calendar has the students’ best interest in mind.”
“I have something I like and dislike about all of them,” said re-elected president of the board Barbara Underwood, “I too would like Mr. Hitchcock to make the decision.”
Hitchcock then spoke in favor of the calendar the board ultimately adopted.
Shirley Dye, in her first meeting after being elected to the board, worried parents will have a hard time finding babysitting.
“I’m concerned for parents of young children — babysitting,” she said. “I’d like to see Parks and Rec have something for the children to do.”
“Our primary concern is student achievement, not babysitting,” said Huff.