, 2015

School board approves
longer calendar, shorter days

by Renss Greene

LOTTSBURG—The Northumberland County School Board voted to adopt a longer school calendar with shorter days at its meeting Monday, April 7.

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The vote was in line with recommendations from a calendar committee appointed to address next year’s schedule and survey opinions. Teachers say the shorter days particularly benefit younger students.

“Those children in first grade have the biggest slide between first and second grade with their reading,” said Northumberland Elementary reading recovery teacher Lydia Haynie. “And that is because they’re new. They’re novices, and they’ve not had time to orchestrate what they’ve learned. For that reason, I’m in favor of the longer calendar and the shorter day. Because they’re tired.”

Assistant superintendent Dale Wittler headed the committee to consider possible calendars for the 2014-15 school year.

“I think with the elementary folks in the committee, they, after a lot of discussion, agreed that the shorter school day was beneficial, particularly to the younger kids,” Wittler said.

The new calendar includes 173 school days, five days more than this year’s 168-day calendar. Northumberland schools finance officer Donna Booth estimated the five extra days will cost the school system about $21,000.

The school board also began work on a new evaluation tool for superintendents mandated by the Virginia state board of education. The new evaluation process is required to measure the superintendent in seven areas, including mission, vision, and goals; planning and assessment; instructional leadership; organizational leadership and safety; communication and community relations; professionalism; and division wide student academic progress.

School board chairman Richard Saxer and member Gerald Howard also recommended that the school board include an eighth standard, management of division fiscal affairs.

“Right now when we do the evaluation, that’s not captured at all,” Howard said. “So we’re just putting it in there to see that we can rate the superintendent on how the fiscal budget is handled. She’s doing an excellent job,” he added.

Saxer said the big difference in the new evaluation will be a fact-based approach and emphasis on student success.

“This is a different type of evaluation in that it is not based on comments or essay,” Saxer said. “It’s a comprehensive evaluation, but it’s based on facts.

“However, it also provides for flexibility and creativity, and that’s where a superintendent can really shine,” he added.

Under the new standards, the student academic progress category must account for at least 40% of the evaluation.

Superintendent Dr. Rebecca Gates said the new tool will be in line with recently adopted evaluation processes for teachers and principals.

According to Saxer, the state board of education says the new tool must be in place by July 1, although the school board will not actually need to conduct an evaluation at that time. The last evaluation of the superintendent was in January.

The school board also approved a resolution allowing the superintendent to approve some school trips, addressing the difficulty of getting permission from the school board in time a for a trip on short notice. The superintendent may now grant trips provided that the request is a result of a competition that allows a student team to move to the next level of competition and all other application requirements are met.

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