VALDOSTA — The Valdosta City School System’s calendar is undergoing some major changes.

At Monday night’s board meeting, the Valdosta Board of Education approved Superintendent Dr. Bill Cason’s request to remove three early dismissal days from the calendar with an 8-1 vote.

Dr. Joseph Brown, District 2, opposed the recommendation.

“We have a new focus on academics, and we need every academic minute we can have for instructional class time,” Cason said. “An early dismissal pretty much wastes those days.”

At a previous open forum hosted by the superintendent, Cason mentioned the possibility of eliminating the early dismissal days in the future but decided that the issue had immediate need and should be handled this school year.

“I really feel a sense of urgency,” Cason said. “I don’t think we need to wait to do the things we need to do academically.”

Early dismissal on Nov. 11 and Feb. 10, which was previously reserved for parent/teacher conferences, and Dec. 19, the day prior to the start of the holiday break, will now be full days.

The last day of school will still be an early dismissal day, Cason said.

LaDonna Peeples, a Newbern Middle School seventh-grade Language Arts teacher, doesn’t see the elimination as much of an issue.

“For middle school students especially, any change in routine affects behavior,” Peeples said. “On the other hand, I don’t believe that having three shortened, less-productive days was seriously detrimental to our students’ overall learning.”

While the decision to eliminate the early dismissal days was based on the need to provide more academic time to the students, the full day also helps parents, Cason said.

Many parents have called Cason requesting that the days be eliminated because it forces them to find alternative places for their children to go until they can get off work, he said.

Teachers will now be expected to schedule parent/ teacher conferences after the end of the school day. This will also help parents as the times to meet will not be during typical working hours, Cason said.

“I anticipate that we will see an increase in attendance from parents with the change in schedule,” he said.

Cason said he would have tried to eliminate the early dismissal days from the 2008-09 calendar sooner, but he was not superintendent when it was approved.

Teachers have been notified of the change through a memo, and Cason said he has spoke about the issue numerous times in public forums.

“I realize this puts added hours on the teachers’ workday, but the vast majority will not mind,” Cason said. “Many already do after-hours duties that are above and beyond what is required.”

The teachers will not be compensated for the overtime as they work on straight salary, he said.

Parents and teacher will receive written and electronic notices regarding the change in the coming weeks.

No early dismissal days, with the exception of the last day of school will be placed on the 2009-10 calendar, Cason said.

The 2008-09 calendar was one of three voted on by Valdosta City School System teachers, staff and parents online prior to board consideration.

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