Shaler board confirms school start date
The Shaler Area School Board is maintaining its decision to start the 2013-14 school year after Labor Day to the disappointment of some teachers and parents.
High school teachers Dennis Dudley and Paul Stadelman approached the board on March 13 to request they reconsider their vote to start classes on Sept. 3.
Dudley argued that the approved calendar puts the teachers and students at a disadvantage to prepare for statewide academic testing, including the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and Keystone exams, in May.
“Not one of you on the board does not believe academics is more important than vacation?” Dudley said.
Dudley argued that the board has made changes to the calendar in the past and that it would be in the best interest of the students to make the pre-Labor Day start date revision.
Board President Jim Giel said for now, no revisions will be made to the calendar.
“The board made the decision, the board had the opportunity to make the changes and they did not,” Giel said. “The board feels beginning after Labor Day is the best for the students.”
The school board originally discussed the 2013-14 calendar and approved it in February.
When administrators presented calendar options to the school board, Superintendent Wes Shipley said it was challenging because several holidays fall on Wednesdays, including Christmas and New Year's Day, and the PSSA testing window is March 17 to Apr. 11 and Apr. 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 Shaler Area Education Association, the teachers' collective bargaining unit, 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 13.
The board also listened to public comment before approving the 2013-14 calendar during which board member John Fries said several parents expressed preference for a start date after Labor Day and none voicing strong objections to it.
“I always urge the public to be involved as much as possible,” Fries said. “I've listened to those people who were proactive. … I wish we would have heard that (Dudley's arguments) prior to voting.”
Eileen Phillips, secretary of the District Parent Council, was at the February meeting in which the board discussed the calendar and said there was not an overwhelming support from the public speakers to start after Labor Day.
“It wasn't until after that (meeting) Mr. Dudley came to the school parent organizations and DPC and gave a very informed presentation,” Phillips said. “I think now that we realize, our eyes are open to why … I think most parents would choose that (the calendar starts before Labor Day).”
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.