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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rock Hill Parents Want To Know

Several  parents have asked me questions over the past few weeks which I think probably need to be answered for all to see. Comments in Red will be mine. I asked the administration to give me an official response to why the last two days of the year are half days and an explanation of the elementary report cards. Their answers are in blue.
  1. Why did we have those Fridays off at the end of the year? You can actually blame the school board for that (May 18, 25 were Fridays and May 31 is a Thursday). They were reserved for bad weather make-up days - which we had none this year. After the media uproar over going to school on MLK day, and not wanting to take any of the spring holidays, the board directed the administration to find days that would not delay high school graduation and would avoid all holidays. The administration felt that if the days had just been tacked on at the end of the year, there was too much delay between the time school got out and graduation. Next year, two teacher work days will be used and the Memorial Holiday. This is a situation where you can't make everybody happy. The best solution is to have no bad weather make-up days. I wish we could get someone on board who can control the weather.
  2. Why are the last two days of the school year half days? Half Days -We are required to go 180 days (3 of which can be half days).  Every year teachers request we use the last two days as half days.  This is mostly driven by the high schools.  High school students take 2 exams a day.  So after their exams, it does not seem logical to make them go to a class where they have already had a final exam.   Elementary and middle school students have "programs" (like field days, graduations,  etc.) and parents check them out of school.  So, we have very few students left.  Half days have created an interesting situation with this years calendar. With the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as half days, and Thursday being off as a non used bad weather day, essentiallyelementary and middle school students only have one day for the week and a lot of parents elected to end school on Thursday, May 24, 2012. Non senior high school students must come to take exams on Tuesday and Wednesday. It will be interesting to see what attendance is this week.  I remember events a little differently. High School teachers have to grade final exams so report cards can go out. They have always had half days for this purpose. High school students often provide transportation for younger siblings at middle schools and when the high school gets out early, they often check out their riders at the same time, causing disruption in the middle schools. I think taking a half day for the last day probably has some merit, but the next to last day does not. Regardless, the board has supported the administration's recommendation on this issue.
  3. Why doesn't the district have a weekly newsletter that parents can sign up for and post links to all the district blogs on it's web site? Probably should, but I believe this effort should be done at the lowest level in the organization. The higher up the organization, the more filtered and the farther away from where the real action is happening. Parents should have this discussion with their Principal and links should be posted on their school's web site. Your Principal should be the "go to person" for all the information you need. If they don't have it, they can get it. If they are not doing the job, see if you can help, or carry your request to the district office.
  4. The Elementary Report Card is hard to understand. Can someone help explain it to parents so they will know how their child is doing?   Bottom line is we want parents to really know what their child is able to do.    They should also meet with their child's teacher for an individual conference on how to read them. There is also an explanation on the web site. Click here to see what is posted. I have not seen a completed report card. If it is not easy to determine how your child is doing, it needs to be changed. After all, that is the purpose of the report card, whether grades are used or not. The school administration made the change without action by the board. As a board member, I can tell you they are very proud of the change and believe it is cutting edge. It can be controversial, and when a similar change was proposed for the high schools, parents started rebelling. So much so, some contacted Dr. Zais who issued a memo in April against one of the proposed changes. Click here to see the memo from The SC State Superintendent of Education to Superintendents. I think the administration asked the right question but might have come up with the wrong answer. We should require everyone to have 100% competency of the standards before moving on. (You've heard the story about the airline pilot that announces after take off that he just passed his certification with a 70 - made 100 on take offs and 40 on landings). This could be done with a correctly implemented one to one computing system. You would  know how well your student is doing by how far they were along on the standards, A proper one to one program would allow the accelerated  student to progress to a higher grade level.

So, there you have it. The board has taken action on the first two questions and has not taken action on the last two. Of course, the comments in red are still mine and do not reflect the opinion of any other board member. You should know that I get a lot more questions than those posted above. Those  seemed to be timely and reflect questions I've gotten from a very diverse group of parents. I have a lot of confidence in our  school administrators and believe they can answer most of your questions. If not, you can always call on a board member.

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