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Some Shaler teachers ask for earlier start of year

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

While the Shaler Area School Board approved the 2013-14 school year calendar last month, some teachers are asking the board to reconsider.

Last week, high school teachers Dennis Dudley and Paul Stadelman spoke at the board's Committee of the Whole work meeting to “try to encourage a dialogue to revise” the schedule, specifically by starting the school year before Labor Day.

“This is entirely academic,” said Dudley, chair of the science department. “This has nothing to do with SAES (Shaler Area Education Association, the teachers' collective bargaining unit) or what's going on in the district. We're trying to make sure we're academically rigorous.”

Dudley argued that the approved calendar, which starts classes on Sept. 3, puts the teachers and students at a disadvantage to prepare for statewide academic testing, including the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone exams, in May.

“We want our students in class for as much time as possible,” he said. “We believe it's academically unsound to start a schedule after Labor Day.”

When the administration presented calendar options to the school board in February, Superintendent Wes Shipley said it was extremely challenging this year because several holidays fall on Wednesdays, including Christmas and New Year's Day, and the PSSA testing window is March 17 to April 11 and April 28 to May 9.

“Making a calendar is not as easy as choosing a start and end date,” Shipley said in February.

Of the two calendar options initially proposed to SAES and the school board, one started classes on Aug. 26 and one started classes on Sept. 3. The school board approved the latter with classes ending June 12.

“Looking at the calendar in the way it is, we're working as hard as we can … before the May deadlines,” said Stadelman, chair of the math department. “Getting us as many days (prior) to those tests is prudent.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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