School Board questions data provided by central office.
The Board of Education tabled discussion regarding the 2012/2013 school calendar and a weather waiver request allowing the school district to implement a specialized school calendar due to concern about the accuracy of the data.
According to Andrew Cox, of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI), a recent law that was retroactively applied to the past 10 years of districts across the state allowed delays and half days to be counted toward days missed during a school year.
Originally, the law stated that in order to be eligible for the weather waiver, a school district had to miss eight calendar days in any four of the last 10 years because of severe weather conditions, energy shortages, power failure or emergency situations.
Under that law, Macon County missed 13 days during the 2010-2011 academic year, but before that, the most school days missed in a year was five (2008-2009), which is why the county has not previously qualified for the waiver.
In June of 2010, the State Board of Education approved an amendment to the law which states: “Schools in any local school administrative unit in county have been closed for all or part of eight days per year during any four of the last 10 years because of severe weather conditions. For purposes of this subdivision, a school shall be deemed to be closed for part of a day if it is closed for two or more hours.”
Cox notified Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman of DPI’s error. Brigman informed the members of the Board of Education and began working with Julia Walrdroop to recalculate the data, which revealed in some instances (2009-2010), the district could report up to 36 days in a single calendar year.
During the board meeting, board member Jim Breedlove raised questions about the monumental increase in numbers and stated that even if the law was allowed to be implemented retroactively, it seems nearly impossible to go from first reporting two days to now reporting 36 in the same year.
“I just find it hard to believe that we are able to report such a drastic difference,” said Breedlove. “I cannot, in good conscience, vote for something that I have not been able to personally verify. We have a liability here and I would feel more comfortable voting for it after seeing how these numbers were drafted up.”
Breedlove explained that from what he understood, each school in the district had to be on the same two-hour delay or early release time for it to count toward the days applied to the weather waiver. Dr. Brigman confirmed that Breedlove was correct. “For a day to count it has to be a district-wide schedule change,” said Brigman.
Breedlove also noted that the school district was forced to spend a significant amount of money this school year in a legal situation due to a lawsuit that developed to challenge the current school calendar. “We have gone through so much this year with the Save Our Summers lawsuit, and I want to be sure we don’t have to do that again,” said Breedlove. “We need to make sure that the numbers we are reporting are accurate and that we have the data to back it up.”
Board Chairman Tommy Cabe stated that he agreed with Breedlove and felt any vote regarding the calendar or the school waiver should be tabled until the board had the opportunity to review the data. “I agree and I don’t think that it would be a bad idea to hold off and check the numbers,” said Cabe.
Superintendant Brigman informed that board that he and Julia Waldroop went back and viewed the districts records over the past ten years and tallied up the days missed each school year based on existing records. “I worked with Julia on this so it shouldn’t be a problem at all to get some hard numbers,” said Brigman. “We pulled the data from our records and submitted it to DPI, so I can get those numbers for the board members.”
According to Cox, it is the responsibility of the school district to compile the data needed for the weather waiver, and DPI does not take any action to verify any information they receive from districts within the state. Cox also reported that the only figures DPI has on record are the final numbers for each year, and information regarding the individual days missed would be kept at the respective school district’s office.
Macon County’s board of education decided to table a vote on the weather waiver and next year’s calendar because the proposed calendar’s start and finish dates are contingent upon receiving the weather waiver.
The proposed calendar calls for the first teacher workday to fall on August 2, with students returning to school for the first day on August 6. The la st day for students in the proposed calendar would be May 24. North Carolina law mandates that no school is permitted to start school before August 25 without special permission from DPI. This year, Macon County was allowed to implement a non traditional calendar to allow additional instruction days in order to implement the Fall and Spring intersessions.