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SCSD calendar committee frustrated with process

High school principal drops out of group’s leadership role

SOLON– The committee charged with making recommendations for the Solon district’s start and end of school year is frustrated with the process.
And high school principal Nathan Wear has accepted responsibility for the poor communication and stepped down as chair of the group.
Calendar committee members Brandi Radcliffe and Tom Altman appeared before the Solon school board at its March meeting to clarify the role of the committee during the events leading up to the approval of a 2014-2015 school calendar in February.
Back on Feb. 10, board members approved a revised 2014-2015 school year with an early start date of Aug. 14, reversing a decision made the previous April.
The new calendar aligned the end of the first semester and winter break, with high school graduation falling on Sunday, May 17, 2015.
But the calendar committee didn’t have much to do with the dates the board approved.
“The calendar committee did not create that calendar or know of its existence until after you voted,” Radcliffe told the board members at the regular monthly meeting Monday, March 10.
Subsequently, she said, members of the committee voiced their concerns and community members also expressed unease with the earlier start date.
“We don’t make calendar recommendations lightly,” she noted. “Many hours and thoughtful consideration are devoted to the process.”
The committee, comprised of parents, teachers, community members and school administrators, creates options to recommend to the board for review and eventual approval.
Prior to making a recommendation for a two-year calendar in April 2013, the committee conducted extensive surveys of teachers and families at every grade level and compiled the results.
The calendar committee did have input on the calendar regarding the scheduling of more professional development time for teachers, but Radcliffe said a modified start date was not discussed during a meeting in the fall of 2013.
At a March 5 meeting, after the board had approved a new calendar with an early start date, it was explained to the committee members that the start date of Aug. 20 (adopted by the school board last April) was incompatible with board goals of ending the first semester with winter break and aligning graduation with the third weekend of May.
The standard procedure would have been to reconvene the committee, Radcliffe said, but due to limited time, the new calendar was created by Wear and Superintendent Sam Miller.
Another calendar option was presented to the committee at the March 5 meeting, one with a Monday, Aug. 18, start date, but it would have started the school year with a full week of classes and reduced the number of vacation days over winter break.
The committee declined to act on it or the calendar that had been approved by the board, Radcliffe said, “because we did not believe stakeholders had an adequate opportunity to express their concerns about specific calendar issues created by changing the start date with such short notice.”
Both Radcliffe and Altman expressed some exasperation at the process and asked for better guidance from the board.
“We do our homework, we check with many parents, teachers and students as well, and we are frustrated,” Altman noted. “I think what we’re requesting for the next time is that we really just get your objectives, and maybe in the ranking order of their importance.
“That would really help us a lot,” Altman continued. “Because we really did feel that we were doing the right thing.”
When the subject was opened to board discussion, member Dan Coons indicated the process needed to be improved so community members would not feel their input was being ignored. He suggested seeking a “best practice” for calendar creation based on a review of how other districts approach it.
“I think I can understand the frustration the committee has gone through,” board member Dean Martin said. “They’ve always done a very good job of giving us the information that we’ve requested and go through a lot of work every year usually to do that.” He agreed the board needed to be very clear with its directives, or possibly have a board member attend the committee sessions.
Principal Wear, chair of the calendar committee, shouldered the responsibility for the miscommunication with the committee.
“I apologized to the committee and I want to apologize to the board, too,” Wear said. “Often, as administrators, we’re in a lose-lose situation. It just depends how much we lose one thing or another. In this case, communication wasn’t able to happen.
“I told the committee that I would not continue to chair this or facilitate this process,” Wear continued, “because if I can’t lead the process and get us to a point where you guys have good information, than that’s time for me to step aside and let somebody else do that.”
Wear noted the calendar decision was a personal one for most families and that made it challenging to lead, but said he didn’t want that to take anything away from the efforts of the committee.