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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Upcoming Meetings about the proposed 20 extra school days

Below you will find Dr. Wilson’s scheduled attendance at upcoming PTO meetings to discuss the proposed extra 20 days to be added to the school year.  Please feel free to contact either the superintendent's office or the particular school to confirm Dr. Wilson’s attendance, correct time, etc.

1:00 PM
Marana Middle School
6:00 PM
Desert Winds Elementary/Picture Rocks 
Intermediate @ Picture Rocks
6:00 PM
Estes Elementary School
7:00 PM
Rattlesnake Ridge Elementary School
6:00 PM
Thornydale Elementary School
6:00 PM
DeGrazia Elementary School
6:30 PM
Twin Peaks Elementary School
11:30 AM
Marana High School

Here is a review written by Jenny Cawley:
"I have been asked to compile this note in reference to MUSD's proposal to extend their school calendar to 200 days.  I intend to share my experience from the Coyote Trail PTO meeting I attended on Wednesday, January 12th. I am encouraging every parent to attend your school's PTO meeting.  Dr. Doug Wilson, MUSD's superintendent, is making the rounds to each district schools January or February PTO meeting.   They are coming up quickly.  I decided to attend CT's meeting despite not being a CT parent because I had received some e-mail communication in regards to the proposal.  I spoke to one of my childrens' teachers at school about the proposal and was concerned about some of the things she said about it. I wanted to get information firsthand as quickly as I could so I could be informed and prepared. I am planning on attending the meetings at each of three MUSD schools my children attend, if possible, to become more educated. The following is what I learned from Dr. Wilson and from observation of other parents and staff that were in attendance.

1. MUSD is starting a dialogue in regards to extending their calendar to 200 days.  There will be no added vacation or holidays. There will no additional staff inservice days.  They will keep 1/2 day Fridays because of teacher contracts. The current MUSD calendar is at 180 days. This will add 20 school days. Vail School District has been used as a comparison but they do not have a 200 day calendar.  They have a year round 180 day calendar. See it here  Dr. Wilson also passed out a sample calendar.  He did say that he created it and it did not come from the committee that is suggesting this proposal.  This 2012-2013 calendar showed the last day of school as May 31st and the first day on July 16th.

2. Dr. Wilson stated that there is an Arizona state law that has been on record for 8 or nine years.  This law gives an additional 5% funding increase to districts that have a 200 day calendar.  There is only one school district in Arizona that has taken advantage of the statute.  It is the Balsz School District in Phoenix.  It is in a low income area near Thomas Road and the Red Mountain Freeway. I googled it and did some reading.  I asked Dr. Wilson why more districts were not taking advantage of this statute.  He replied that it was because people don't like change and eventually all schools will go to a 200 day calendar. This is his opinion.  He said there are approximately 5 schools west of the Mississippi that have a 200 day schedule. Most are 180-185 days. There are no current statistics or studies that say a 200 day calendar shows any increase in academic performance.

3.  I asked Dr. Wilson about the fact that MUSD is currently using a 180 day curriculum and would they being getting any new curriculum or extensions to the current one.  The answer was no.  Teachers are going to be able to enrich the curriculum they currently are using.  There were several teachers in attendance.  Mrs. McGarity from Rattlesnake Ridge was there.  She said that she is on the fence.  She does not feel that her middle schooler and high schooler would benefit from more school days but she sees how other students could.  I thought she was very fair.  Two other teachers spoke for the proposal.  I don't remember specifically what they said.

4.  Dr. Wilson stated that the 5% increase would allow for teacher pay raises in 2012-2013.  I intend to ask at another meeting if this will be a one time increase or if it will be annual.  This was not clear.

5.  The AZ legislature passed three new education laws in the last session.  The first is Move On When Reading which mandates that all 3rd graders must be reading at a 3rd grade reading level to be promoted to 4th grade.  If they don't they will be retained.  The 2nd is Move On When Ready. You can read about it here  Move On When Ready is optional.
The third is a teacher tenure bill that makes teachers more accountable for their students standardized test scores.
Dr. Wilson stated that all of these new directives are a cause for expanding the calendar.

6. Dr.Wilson stated that currently an extended day calendar is not tied to the expiring budget override election in November.  That 10% override will continue some basic services like activity buses.  I am not sure what else is tied into it.  I expect we will hear more on those provisions soon.  However, the intent may be to attach it to the override if or when the School Board approves it.

7.  6-7 parents raised concerns about the extended calendar infringing on the time they spend with their children.They are in essence adding a month of school with weekend homework and projects. Dr. Wilson said that "culture" will have to change. One parent brought up the issue of student athletes that are in club sports.  These athletes participate in tournaments that extend through July or August.  Dr. Wilson said the people will have to make hard choices.  He cited Vail again but the parent rebutted saying that she knows for a fact the Vail students miss school to attend their tournaments. Parents also asked why the district wasn't considering an extended school day, or extended fall and spring breaks.  The answer was they will not get the additional funding.  It has to be 200 days.

This is most of what I took notes on and remember. I'm sure I missed things as well.  That is why I am encouraging everyone to attend any meeting you can."

Marana Elected Governing School Board Members
Mr.John Lewandowski
Ms.Suzanne Hopkins
Ms.Manibel Lopez

Dr. Doug Wilson
Assistant Superintendent,
Carolyn Dumler
Assistant Superintendent
Dr. Jan Truitt
Director of Operations
Dan Contorno

Marana Unified School District
Suite 106
11279 W. Grier Rd.
Marana, AZ  85653

Phone: (520) 682-4774
FAX: (520) 682-2421

Hours of Operation
7:30 am to 4:00 pm

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