Manchester school calendar may be shortened
MANCHESTER - A key school board committee has signed off on a plan that would shorten the school year, while having students spend more time in class each day.
However, the calendar, which would go into effect next fall, is drawing strong opposition from the city teachers union, which says it violates provisions in its contract concerning changes in work conditions.
The Coordination Committee voted Tuesday to approve a 175-day calendar, versus the current schedule of 180 days.
The change was prompted partly by the realization the district can meet the state mandates for minimum instruction based on days or hours. The required 990 hours for high school and middle school instruction would be compressed into 175 days, with the school year ending about a week earlier than it would under the 180-day calendar.
The proposed calendar would also make Dec. 23 a no-school day. For the 2013-2014 year, the last day of school would be June 12 for students and June 13 for staff.
Under the proposal, the additional class time would be incorporated into the school day by cutting the lunch period in the high schools, currently about 50 minutes, in half.
Mayor Ted Gatsas, a strong proponent of the change, said this would bring the lunch times in the high schools in line with those at the elementary and middle schools.
"Parents say their kids don't have enough education time," he said. "This would give them more of that."
However, Ben Dick, president of the Manchester Education Association, said the move violated a condition of the contract concerning changes in work conditions, since it would add to the work load of teachers.
"To accommodate the extra work hour, this would take away part of the lunch period and add to the work period," he said.
Dick said a memorandum of understanding with the district already prohibited any changes in the start and stop times for work - the beginning and end of the school day.
He also noted that the union had made it clear to the subcommittee that it considered any unilateral changes to the school day a violation of its contract.
"We've come to the conclusion that we need to handle this within the bargaining process," Dick said. "We've been preparing our members for this topic of discussion for some time."
The teachers contract expires at the end of this school year, but if no agreement is reached on the new contract, the current one will remain in force. Negotiations on the new contract are just getting under way.
Only two members of the Coordination Committee voted against the change to the calendar, Art Beaudry and Debra Gagnon Langton. The policy is expected to be voted on at the full board meeting next month.
The Coordination Committee voted Tuesday to send another potentially controversial policy to the full board: establishing a maximum and minimum enrollment for high school classes.
The policy would set a maximum class size of 30 students and a minimum of 15, below which the class would be cancelled.
The committee approved an exception to the minimum clause, in response to concerns raised by some school board members, as well as officials in Hooksett, which sends its high school students to the city and is locked in a dispute with the district over school conditions.
The revised policy states that "specific course extensions may be granted by the superintendent or his/her designee."
Board member John Avard had objected to the minimum enrollment component of the policy over concerns that it could lead to the cancellation of advanced and specialized courses, such as music, that tend to have fewer students.
"I think there needs to be more flexibility for special circumstances. I believe principals know when there is a special case, for example if there are only nine students in an Advanced Placement history class," he said.
Avard had proposed the amendment to the policy, and he ended up voting for the revised version.
The only vote against the policy came from board member Beaudry.
The policy proposal was prompted in large part by the outcry from Hooksett parents and education officials over crowded classes in the Manchester high schools. Hooksett has begun the formal process of ending its contract with the city over the conditions.
In a letter to the city school board sent prior to Tuesday's meeting, Hooksett Superintendent Charles Littlefield said the 30-student limit "is consistent with school approval requirements."
The town school board, however, had concerns about a 15-student minimum.
"It is the board's sense that many of these classes meet the unique needs of individual students and could have a negative impact on the overall breadth and depth of their high school experience," Littlefield wrote.
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Greg Barrett said:
Excellent idea. I should think even many teachers would prefer this arrangement as well.
February 14, 2013 12:38 am
Kathy Higgins said:
I'd like to see an example of this schedule. If you go through the lunch line at Memorial now it can take up to 30 minutes to get your lunch. This is even worse on advisory days. I think there will be a lot of wrinkles to iron out before this works.
February 14, 2013 6:39 am
PETER SORRENTINO said:
While I am sure many forthcoming posts will overlook this "detail", it is difficult to comment on a proposed daily schedule when the writer of the article failed to present the schedule. This is a level of reporting that is poor even by the low Union Leader standards.
February 14, 2013 6:50 am
RON PROVENCHER said:
Maybe the tax payers of Manchester should get a union!It seems as though, EVERYTHING violates union contracts!
February 14, 2013 7:05 am
JOHN ALEXION said:
Wasn't the Evergreen Law repealed here in NH? Gee, I hope the contract specifically didnt grant the rights of the contract to continue after expiriation. As long as there are school committe and administrators that continue to sponsor contracts there will never be the meaningful change needed to bring education to the 21st century. Change is painful but necessary, the public sector is no longer immune from the forces of change that has transformed the private sector. It's about economics, the local taxpayers cannot afford to pay for the current education system, it's dysfunctional, barely working, and adrift with no long term plan. The teachers are paid pretty well, sure they deserve raises, but the also need to take into account the system needs to change and be overhauled. It's time to cut Hooksett loose when we start focusing to appease them we are ignoring our own students. Let them take their business somewhere else, anytowns as cheap as Candia and Hooksett and Auburn should have had their own school years ago. Let them go to Pinkerton or Londonderry or Hudson. Derry is seeing their cost go through the roof with the cost of education more than their town budget. Let them see how far Londonderry and Hudson bends over backwards.
February 14, 2013 7:52 am
AL WOODARD said:
The BOMA need to tell the Teachers Union in plain English so they understand, that we do not deal with terrorist. The union created the problem in the school this year. We need to get rid of the union, either give them a contract and say take it or leave it, or just tell them their services are no longer needed and start running the schools like a business. In the past, Unions supported the workers, today, the workers support the unions. The union model has run it's course and should be eliminated. Give them a take it or leave it contract, and if they walk away, hire people who care more about the kids than they do about their union bosses.
February 14, 2013 8:24 am
Jennifer-Ann Vattes said:
My kids do not go to Manchester schools and typically get out a week to a week and a half ahead of Manchester students. While I think it's great on the one hand for the kiddos, it does create a bit of a hardship for working parents as camps and other summer care options typically do not start up until the very end of June, leaving 1-2 weeks where parents have to piece care together. I also am not sure I'm fond of cutting lunch time short. Doesn't everyone need a "reboot" in their day?? How would parents feel if their lunch break was cut short at work?
February 14, 2013 8:29 am
paul cote said:
I think it's time for states, cities and towns to require teachers to work a full year like the rest of the world has to. They demand full time pay for working 180 days a year. This is 2013 and they are paid very well with great benefits. During the time that the children are on break the teachers should be required to learn the latest technologies and come up with a plan than includes more than "read more and you will be smart". It is time for our students to be taught technology at an early age and start catching up with the rest of the world so that businesses today would not have to go out of the country for talent. I say a full year for the teachers and staff, 4 weeks vacation is good enough. There is no logical argument that someone paid for a full time job shouldn't work full time. And please spare me the baloney about all the extra work you do.. WE ALL DO THAT, in the private sector.
February 14, 2013 9:20 am
DALE ALLABY said:
Actually Mr. Sorrentino, the scheduling math is very simple to calculate. With the current 180 day schedule, you divide 990 by 180 you arrive at 5.5 hrs a day. If you do the same formulation with 175 days you arrive at 5.6571 hrs a day, which is a difference of .157 hrs. Less than 15 minutes a day would have to be "made up" over the course of 175 days. Look at the upside, you can start your summer vacation earlier......
February 14, 2013 9:43 am
Travis Liles said:
Kathy, by shortening the lunch periods in half they would be adding twice as many time blocks for lunch, so the number of students in a lunch period should also cut in half which would shorten the wait time in line.
February 14, 2013 10:54 am
Kathy Higgins said:
Students don't have lunch periods. If they have a free period, they eat. My daughter and many of her friends don't get lunch a couple of days/week because of labs, band, etc.
February 14, 2013 11:03 am
brian dutton said:
The Education System has turned into a giant Corporation. Unfortunately, it is not held to even the most basic business accountability. It also sets itself up to benefit the "Corporate" employees under the guise of its all for the children. The costs are just passed on to taxpayers and there are no attempts to streamline expenses. This 'Corporation" is basically a part time function being paid full time salaries with HIGH pensions and Health Care costs again passed on to the Taxpayers. I appreciate the role of teachers in our World, but we do not get good value for what we pay.
February 14, 2013 11:06 am
Bill Powers said:
The biggest thing I got from this article was the fact that the high school teachers get twice as much time for lunch compared to elementary and middle school teachers. Why is that allowed to happen? If I was a middle or elementary school teacher I think I'd be looking to get a better union that treated everyone the same. After reading this I bet Ben Dick(union president) is a high school teacher.
February 14, 2013 12:14 pm
Richard L. Fortin said:
Al Woodward, If you want to see the closest example of terroists, checked ou the tactics of Jim O'Connell and the cry babies from the Citizens for Manchester Schools. It takes a crew of 12 Highway Department employees to clean up the excessinve water left by the CMS.
February 14, 2013 12:27 pm
Mike Redding said:
The continuing decline of America.
February 14, 2013 1:14 pm
Rick Dionne said:
Big shocker here, the union is not on board, and neither are those two school board members ... in my opinion, the 3 biggest reasons why the Manchester schools can't make any progress ...
February 14, 2013 7:37 pm
RON PROVENCHER said:
Al Woodward, I totally agree with you. Someone has finally said it. Unions USED TO have a purpose not any more! Do union workers think they they are the only people being asked to pay more for med. insurance? The days of 5 and 10 dollar co - pays are gone! Try 1500.00 dollar deductibles on for size, 3000.00 for families, like the rest of us! I may not be able to afford to go to the doctors office for a hang nail anymore! As far as lunch periods, I believe back in 1970 - 1974 Manchester Memorial had 5, 25 minute lunch periods, give or take a few minutes. We seemed to be able to get through it without too much trauma!
February 16, 2013 7:58 am
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