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Thursday start day, longer winter break on next year’s school calendar

School will once again start on a Thursday next year.

The Loudoun County School Board voted to adopt Calendar Option C for the 2018-2019 school year at its Tuesday meeting.

Option C will start on Aug. 23, include an eight-day winter break and end on June 7, 2019. Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) proposed adopting Option C because it includes staff development days.

Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) also said he’d support Option C because most feedback he received from his constituents supported this option.

Also considered were Option A and Option D. Option A is modeled after the current school year, with the Thursday start date on Aug. 23, a week-long winter break and June 6 end date. Option D would have students start on Monday, Aug. 27, have a winter break shorter by one day, remove a countywide staff development day in April and have students finish out the school year on Friday, June 7, 2019.

Option D was amended by Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), who made a substitute motion to adopt this option. He said the feedback he received was mixed but slightly in favor of Option D, which he viewed as more of a compromise between different stakeholder groups.

Debbie Rose (Algonkian) said some of the feedback she received questioned the necessity of the countywide professional development days. She said those days often address existing parent concerns like school security, teen suicide and depression, the discipline disproportionality in special education and minority students and instituting project based learning.

“What's in those PD days are not a bunch of teachers coming in in their Ugg boots and hanging out and having coffee and going over some light material. These are work days. These are important topics that are being taught ... They’re getting instruction and training that directly benefit your student,” Rose said. “I am trying to make sure that the system you entrust your student to are doing a better job educating them and keeping them safe and making sure that we're covering all their needs that we're supposed to."

"This is important and those are important days that’s more important than vacation time," she added.

Beth Huck (At-Large) said she received pretty even responses in support of options C and D, which is why she was apprehensive about a survey. She said all parents vote based on their needs, which are hard to weigh against each other, which is why she prefers to rely on staff. Staff recommends Option C, so she said she would not support the substitute motion.

Vice Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) agreed, saying the importance of the professional development days is more important than the extra vacation time. However, she said she also heard from teachers and staff who had trouble getting kids to college because of the early start date, and she doesn’t want staff to have that hindrance.

She and Joy Maloney (Broad Run) also heard from teachers that they did not have enough planning time before the school year started. Sheridan asked staff to find a way to consistently set aside time across the school system for teachers to prepare for the school year that is not eaten up by professional development work.

The substitute motion to adopt Option D failed with only Hornberger in favor. The original motion to adopt Option C then passed unanimously.


Here is a simple solution that works in most organizations.

Christmas break: with the exception of Xmas and Xmas eve, school facilities remain open. Either the principal, asst principal or dean are responsible on any given day. They can work out vacation schedules just like doctors, police, military, etc. when equipment/facilities must be constantly managed. Teachers are free to choose which days they use over the student Xmas break as planning days but it’s assumed they use 1-2 days installed of the random Mondays.

Spring break: just like Xmas, ths buildings remain open. The admins of the building work out who will be responsible on any given day. Teachers can choose which of the days to use as planning days.

With moving the PD daya back to August, this now shaves 6 days off the calendar and students can likely be released before Memorial Day. 

With the schools remaining open, CASA, YMCA or other groups can offer childcare in the schools during these days. Heck, some teachers might even want to get some extra pay in those programs (single workers often prefer extra pay over the time off).  Working parents benefit from all 3 above. You know, the people who pay for the schools here in Loudoun…

Who has any objections?

After all the comments, nobody can explain why spring planning days shouldn’tcoccur during the student spring break or why the PD days shouldn’t occur at the beginning of the year. That was the subject of the article,

Loudoun123 - you original comment echos SGP’s contempt for teachers - teachers do work in the evenngs and weekends.  I know no teacher that does not.  There simply is not enough time during the day to do all the lesson planning, grading, parent communication, etc.  On top of that, teacher use their own time for classes, professional development, etc that is required to keep their licenses.  The reality that all this time outside of contracted hours is unpaid.  So, just because SGP tries to confuse the issue by complaining about teachers getting rich and having all this free time, the truth is quite different.

Dante_Callme, where in my comment does it say that teachers are expected to work for free? I was simply making the point (and I numbered them to at least attempt to make it clear) that these are facts that a lot of people and other government jobs do not get. I am in a government job that pays less than a teacher and still requires the same amount of college. I do not go on public forums and go in front of the BOS and shamefully lobby my customers (teacher’s students) to go lobby on my behalf. The bottom line is that the hourly pay and other perks for teachers is absolutely fair compared to the education required vs. positions in the public and private sector that require similar amounts of education. I know that there are many teachers out there that go above and beyond the required hours. I also personally know of a lot of teachers that do not do that, especially after their first few years of teaching, when they begin to recycle their lesson plans, PowerPoints, parent emails, etc.  It gets much easier going forward. A STARTING with a straight bachelor’s degree is making around $50,000 a year. I may have these hours and days off by a little bit, however counting on 180 school days and about 11 days before and after school begins, a teacher is working about 191 days a year. Giving credit for 8 hours a day (no deductions taken for lunch, vacation, sick, etc.), that comes out to 1,528 hours per year. This is about 32.72 per hour.  NOT BAD for a first year college graduate. Now, let’s look at a STARTING Loudoun County Sheriff’s Deputy. No degree is required, however it is preferred and the reality is that most new hires either have a degree or years of experience. They START at about $49,000 and are required to work 42 hours a week with no summers off and are subject to work whatever shift they are told 24/7 in whatever area of the county they are told. That comes out to 2,184 hours or about $22.43 per hour. I have never seen a sheriff’s deputy in front of the BOS ranting and raving about a raise, and they are much more likely to shot or assaulted than a teacher. This is a fair salary, so please stop complaining constantly. There are many others in the same boat and that is not even going into the various other government and school departments, such as bus driver admin support, etc.

Callme doesn’t understand what a salaried” employee is vs hourly. Salaried employees work whatever hours it takes including weekends, nights, answering emails during vacation, no 10-week summers off or 2-week Christmas breaks. But still no answer on why PD days need to be outside August or spring break. (If during spring break, our year end earlier in June).

Let me get this straignt.  SGP and Loudoun123 want teachers to work for free during their unpaid time off.  I am sure that they would not ask their plumbers to work for free.  They would not ask their lawyers to work for free.  They would not even ask an over-paid, project manager to work for free.  Why do they think teachers are any different?

Please look up “non-sequitur”.  I suggested that (1) we need not have 2 random planning days near, but outside, spring break because NO other professional even gets spring break holidays.  I also suggested (2) it doesn’t make sense for working parents to have to find childcare at irregular times to meet the whims of LCSB or the administration.  Virtually nobody seems to have addressed either issue in their response.

What followed was completely irrelevant arguments.  Even if some teachers do work long hours (at 195 workdays/year), are you seriously suggesting that teachers demand 2 planning days in addition to spring break just to make it hard on working parents?  And why should the PD days not be in August before school?  Most neither answer the issue not justify why the planning/PD days should be spread out.

Let me be clear on what I do support:

1. I support great and effective teachers.  If a teacher shows up for work on the first minute of student class time and leaves at the closing bell, but effectively teaches her students then GREAT.  Give them a raise.  If Allen Iverson doesn’t like “practice” but still performs well in games, he should be paid more than the folks that live in the gym.  We want the Iversons (or the Kobe Bryants that are great and live in the gym) as opposed to the folks that try hard but don’t teach our kids well.

2. But speaking of performance, we KNOW from the PISA tests that compared to similarly affluent students in the US and around the world, Loudoun 10th graders underperformed everyone.  Everyone.  That’s a cumulative result from 1st to 10th grade.  So regardless of how many hours are spent by LCPS employees, they are not as effective as other districts. Thus…

3. We need to focus on outputs, not inputs.  If you spend endless hours re-creating the wheel, you are not to be praised.  You are to be questioned.  We have data (yes, you know the data referenced below that most teachers would never look at before some admins made it mandatory) to show which teachers are most effective.  Take the most effective teachers’ lesson plans and watch how they teach.  Have the other teachers try to replicate that rather than creating some sub-standard lesson plan they can “call their own”.

4. Can anyone explain why the calendar shouldn’t be based on the interests of working parents (besides “I am a teacher and couldn’t care less about what anyone else wants”)?  Why can’t teachers work during student spring break days (if needed, if not go have fun) for planning needs?  Why can’t teachers use some of the student Xmas break for planning (other jobs don’t give their workers those days as holidays except Xmas and New Years)?  Teachers literally have 40 more vacation days that other professionals.  We understand those are going to occur in the summer but do you have to burden the working class, single parents out there?  Why would you do that?

I understand that many teachers don’t feel the same way that the whining teachers on this board feel.  I would hope that the teachers that are concerned about working class parents push back.  And that the effective teachers speak out against the ineffective ones who just want seniority-based pay.  There is no reason why good teachers need to wait 30 years to earn top salaries in LCPS.  With technology, we can have MORE students per class/teacher. (I think LCPS calls this “personalized learning” and it is already being used in some classes)  This moves teachers up the value chain and results in higher salaries.  But you can’t pay enormous salaries when the student/teacher ratio is 15:1.

P.S. the comment that teachers ” did not have enough planning time before the school year started” may be the most idiotic response I’ve ever heard.  Permission granted to work more than the contracted 195 days/year and come in before the first mandatory staff day in August.  Shifting the PD days from August to mid-year had no bearing on that statement whatsoever.

VirginiaSGP I invite you to come spend a day in my elementary classroom because you clearly have no earthly idea what happens in a school building each day. You think that empty parking lots are a sign of teachers inefficiency? What are your working hours? Do you show up there 30+ minutes prior to the start and leave 30-60+ minutes after, like most teachers do? You are saying my work ethic is inefficient because in the 60 minutes a day of my “contract time” that I am given to plan I don’t have enough time to prepare the materials I need for my students, grade their work, update websites or other online communication, reply to parent emails, talk about various student issues with the principal/counselor/nurse/colleagues/parents, and maybe actually use the restroom all before my students return to the classroom. Therefore in order to allow my teaching to be the best that it can I grade, plan, create materials, review websites and videos, and much more each Sunday morning. Counting only the Sundays during the school year (removing Winter Break and Spring Break to be fair) that would be a total of 41 days. Add that to the 195 you speak of and that’s a total of 236 (not even taking into account the nights I’m doing something work related after my own children are in bed). Do you think I should still “extrapolate” my salary by 20%? I am tired of reading your comments on all school related articles where you criticize, bully, and mock teachers for things that you have no idea about. If this is such an easy profession where all you would need to do is babysit then I encourage you to go back to school and get your degree in education.

PAKAT thank you for your understanding! LCPS is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but every now and then its nice to here that some people understand the world inside a school building.

I agree. You really can’t compare the two. Most people workin for businesses don’t get:
1. Ten weeks off every summer.
2.  All weekends off.
3.  Almost all evenings off.
4.  Sometimes up to 10 snow days off.
5.  Usually multiple late arrivals to work on snow days.
6.  Sweet government benefits.

The list could go on.

Normally I tend to somewhat agree with VA SGP on LCPS issues, but not this time.  Honestly, some of your comments/observations don’t sound like they’re coming from someone who has spent so much time & money in researching and fighting the LCPS system.

I’m not a teacher, nor do I have a teacher spouse or close relative teacher, but I do have several friends who are teachers.  Their days do not end when the last bell rings and the last kid has been put on the bus or picked up by a parent.  Most are at school for another hour getting things ready for the next day.  Depending on what time they arrived at school that day, that’s a 8.5 to 9.5 hour day.  Then, factor in the work that must be done at home (grading, more prep, etc.) and it’s easy for many of them to easily work 12 hour days. 

You simply can’t compare a corporate job to a teacher’s job.  I’ve worked in the corporate world my entire career and am afforded luxuries that teachers just don’t have… using the restroom whenever I’d like, taking a stroll from my office to socialize with coworkers to pass some time, zoning out for a bit after completing a stressful task, not having to constantly shove my entire lunch in my pie-hole in 10 minutes time because the rest was spent returning parent phone calls or dealing with a sudden ‘fire.’  And just to be fair, our parking lot empties pretty quickly at the end of the 8 hour workday, and I know for a fact that I and my coworkers (rarely) need to put in additional hours once we get home. 

I agree that the LCPS system is far, far, FAR from even sort-of-kind-of perfect and many of the points/comments you make on school issues are right on the nose, but I think you need to step back and see the big picture on this one.

I hate the Thursday start, but maybe for our early elementary students it does help get them get in the swing of things.

Note there is still no reason to have 2 planning days near but outside spring break nor reason to move the PD days from August. But for the convenience of some admins and the spouses of our school board, we could accommodate the interests of 10k’s of parents.

I normally do not dignify the comments of Virginia SGP with a reply, but this was so egregious in its scope, that I cannot sit idly by. The comment of Virginia SGP quoted below shows his complete ignorance of reality of teaching.
” 4. Finally, I do not doubt there are a minority of teachers who work the schedule that VAminuteman does.  However, watch the parking lots of most of these schools.  They don’t fill up till a few minutes before the opening bell and clear out soon after school is released.  It is a joke to think that most teachers are working the schedule VAminute suggests.  And if these teachers are working such long hours, most are incredibly inefficient (we don’t judge a job by the least efficient worker).  If the same academic standards are taught each year, why are you re-creating the wheel (or trying to convince us that you are re-performing the same planning work).  It’s just an excuse for most teachers.”
Yes, I am a teacher who arrives at 7:20 and leaves at 3:00 on most days (unless I have a staff meeting, committee meeting, or parent conference, which is -at minimum- one day/week). The reason I leave is not because my work is done, but I must pick up my own children from daycare where they have been since 7am and I can’t afford to be charged extra, not to mention, I kind of like spending time with them. “Cars in the parking lot” is a ridiculously inaccurate measure of work. How can you know that I am making phone calls to parents of students on my way to pick up my own children, or the emails that are replied to as I am cooking dinner, or the papers that are graded after my kids go to sleep? It is physically impossible to do all the outside work required during the 30-60 minutes of “planning” which are, on the whole, taken up with meetings to discuss data, meeting with other teachers on the grade level, coordinating field trips, signing up for computer lab time, writing parent newsletters, unjamming the copier while trying to make copies, or dealing with disciplinary issues. God forbid we use the time to use the restroom or grab a snack! I assure you, this is most certainly NOT a minority of teachers who follow this schedule. You are delusional to think so.

Let’s review.

1. Teachers work 195 days per/year instead of 235 days like professional jobs.  Unless you are willing to extrapolate your salary by 20% extra, then you certainly can’t complain about performing some planning on extra days beyond the base 195.

2. Why do we have 7 student holidays (5 teacher holidays) in the middle of spring?  There should be 5 (otherwise known as spring break).  If teachers need planning days, they should work the necessary days during spring break just like EVERY OTHER professional in the US (you could work those 2 and still get 3 more free holidays than EVERY other employer in NoVa provides).  It makes no sense to have 2 random “work days” outside of spring break other than to satisfy the selfish demands of teachers.

3. It makes no sense to have the 2 PD days during the middle of the year, particularly if they are on things like security (mentioned at the LCSB meeting).  First, as pointed out below, moving those 2 PD days to the beginning of the year doesn’t affect planning time, only when we start school.  Having them at the beginning ensures families with college kids need not choose accompanying their kids to college or being home for their kids first day of LCPS school.  Second, if the information is vital, why not share it with teachers at the beginning of the year?  It is solely to please the whims of the administrative staff and some (not all) teachers who want a mental day off listening to lectures during the middle of the year.  Third, it is simply inconvenient to have only 3 days of childcare the last week of summer and 2 more days during the middle of the year.  Programs like CASA don’t offer childcare on the teacher workdays.  Just because you have a stay-at-home-spouse friend who can look out for your kids for free, doesn’t mean single working parents do.

4. Finally, I do not doubt there are a minority of teachers who work the schedule that VAminuteman does.  However, watch the parking lots of most of these schools.  They don’t fill up till a few minutes before the opening bell and clear out soon after school is released.  It is a joke to think that most teachers are working the schedule VAminute suggests.  And if these teachers are working such long hours, most are incredibly inefficient (we don’t judge a job by the least efficient worker).  If the same academic standards are taught each year, why are you re-creating the wheel (or trying to convince us that you are re-performing the same planning work).  It’s just an excuse for most teachers.

If you look at the comments on the FB pages of Hornberger, Rose and Maloney (the first 2 censor their critics like all good authoritarians) about these calendars, you can see teachers comment about what’s best for them personally.  They couldn’t care less about the large number of single parents.  Those are the facts.  If we had a market-based system (see private schools), you would never see such disregard the interests of parents and students.

P.S. For LCPSTeach, we have the data from the PISA exams which show our kids performed worse than all other similarly affluent districts on reading, math and science.  That is why many of us parents fear that many teachers in LCPS are not much more than a glorified babysitting service.

Obviously teachers plan during the summer. Class plans are in place and ready to go on day one.  But in summer, teachers also take classes and even work second jobs. But what non-teachers do not realize is that teaching is dynamic and the plans are constantly changing depending upon student needs.  The construction of lesson plans is time consuming and cannot be done entirely in isolation during the summer because they are built around actual student needs – which change from year-to-year and class-to-class.  Having only one workday prior to grade submittal at the end of a quarter is tough, because LCPS requires teachers to accept work—even late work, up to the end of the GP.  Teachers might get significant quantities of work from students who did very little all quarter and suddenly had a change of work ethic.  A workday starts at 8am and ends at 5:30, then in the evening the planning and grading begins.  Typically, high school teachers have 4 different class preps., and work 60-80 hours a week plus extra-curricular events:  coach debate, sponsor literary magazine, attend tournaments two weekends a month( 10 hours two Saturdays a month)  run a journaling club and an evening coffee-house at school for poetry, music, stories, once a month.  And that’s just my day and what I do—I’m sure other teachers work as hard or harder.  I won’t judge how hard you work since I know nothing about your job.  Please respect what we do.

VirginiaSGP you are clearly removed from the education world. There is much more that goes into “planning” for the upcoming school year that can’t actually be done prior to right before the start of school. You also seem unaware that the six teacher workdays prior to the first day of school are part of our contract and have been for at least the last 15 years. The only thing new with the student calendar the last two years has been moving two of the original eight workdays from August to October and January.

As a teacher I too have to make alternative plans for my own children on days when there is no school. I’d love to work at one of these schools where teachers are using those two random staff development days as “days off” because that didn’t happen where am. What do parents do with their children after school? Maybe that’s a viable option for care on days when school is closed?

At some point I hope many will realize that despite a contract that says a teacher works 195 days and 7.5 hours each day that is far from the truth of it. Its calendars being adopted, snow days, and budget meetings that really show which people think that school is nothing more than a “babysitting service”.

Let me get this straight…SGP wants teachers to work for free during their unpaid time?  And then you have the nerve to tell teachers they don’t know how good their lives are and how rich they are getting.  Wow.

Let me get this straight… teachers who only work 195 days per year do not have enough “planning time” before the year begins?! Permission granted to use some of that 10 week vacation time to “plan”.

Debbie Rose says PD days are “important” but fails to give a single reason why single parents should be shafted by having those days randomly spread throughout the year rather than during the end of summer. Hello!

In the end, those members with personal interests (spouses who want off days spread throughout the year) voted for what their spouses wanted as opposed to the public. Teachers pay attention to these members’ FB pages and ask for what they want (option c). Many of them couldn’t care less that imposes a hardship on less affluent parents. Welcome to LCPS & LCSB.

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