Perception is reality.
When the Columbus Municipal School District opened its regular board meeting Monday, there was some sentiment the board would adopt a modified school calendar for the upcoming meeting, confident that it had done its due diligence in making sure all stakeholders had a chance to weigh in on the idea.
Since January, the district has been engaging parents and other stakeholders through surveys and virtual meetings.
That idea was challenged Monday when Zimiko Turner, a chemistry teacher at Columbus High School and president of the Columbus-Lowndes Association of Educators addressed the board during the open forum portion of the board meeting.
Turner told the board that a survey conducted by her organization showed that 100 of the 118 teachers/support staff who responded were opposed to implementing a modified school calendar for the upcoming year because they did not feel they had adequate opportunities to provide their input.
Under the proposal presented by CMSD Superintendent Cherie Labat, the new school year would feature a shortened summer break and provide for three-week breaks during the fall, winter and spring. The idea is to close the learning gap that occurs during long summer breaks by more evenly distributing the time off throughout the school year.
Turner made a point to say that those who participated in the CLAE survey weren’t necessarily opposed to a modified schedule, but objected to it being implemented without their input for the upcoming year.
It should be noted that there are 260 teachers in the CMSD, so Turner’s survey does not necessarily reflect the majority of teachers’ views.
CMSD Superintendent Cherie Labat has acknowledged from the start that there would not be universal support for the new calendar. “I can’t bat .400 on this,” she said, using a baseball term.
Even so, the opinions of 100 teachers/staff cannot — and should not — be easily ignored.
The board recognized the wisdom of that and voted to delay the decision. The board has set a public meeting from 3-8 p.m. on Feb. 19 at Joe Cook Auditorium to allow for further discussion.
To what degree views on either side of this issue will change is doubtful.
All indicators are that both sides have made up their minds for the next school year at least.
There are two things that cannot be disputed here.
First, any change of this scale needs the support of teachers. It’s the teachers who are in the trenches, who implement policy, who see the day-to-day impact of those policies.
But policy is the responsibility of the administration and school board.
So the decision rightfully rests with the board.
We feel that providing teachers — and anyone else who might have reservations about the calendar — another opportunity to be heard is a good thing. The meeting this Friday should provide an adequate forum to do that.
At some point, though, the board will have to act. That time is fast approaching since so many other things are contingent on having the calendar in place.