Attendance of a number of staff at the Lake Superior School Board meeting Tuesday, April 2, prompted the officials to revisit the 2019-20 district calendar.
During the March 12 meeting, the board approved the 2019-20 district calendar, which included three weeks of vacation - one more week than last year. The vacations are scheduled for Dec. 23 to Jan. 1, Feb.17-21 and April 6-10.
The calendar also pushed the release date by a week to June 11 to allow for the additional vacation week.
This calendar was one of two options created by a joint calendar committee with representatives from each school. Staff voted on the two options, and the current calendar won by a small margin.
The calendar was then presented to the board for final approval, where it was approved, with Tracy Tiboni dissenting, citing concerns of child care during the breaks and the late release date interfering with students looking to work summer jobs.
During the public comment portion of the Tuesday meeting, a few teachers spoke up about the issue.
"A big one (concern) as a teacher is that the April break is right at the MCA (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments) testing time," William Kelley teacher Nancy Lewis said. "Being a third-grade teacher, I'm thinking of my students and how we're trying to get them prepared for the MCAs, and then this great big break is during the testing. That kind of sabotages the idea of getting kids ready to take the test. It's going to be disruptive to them."
Other teachers pointed out the staff voted on the issue and the majority ruled.
Board member Traci Tiboni asked for the issue to be placed on the agenda for further discussion.
"I really felt that we need to consider a whole bunch of things when we're looking at the calendar, specifically the communities and how it impacts them, how it impacts the students and our testing scores," Tiboni said. "I understand and value the input that the process right now has a committee and they formulate the calendar and the staff is allowed to vote. I think that's an important aspect to leave in the consideration process.
"But I felt like the approval at the last meeting was basically just a formality and that the process was who determined what the calendar would be, not the school board."
Board member Cyndi Ryder acknowledged the process was in need of improvement, but to dismiss the vote wasn't fair, either.
"It has been a bone of contention. I don't know of any other business out there that lets the employees pick their work schedule. That should by all rights be a board decision about what the calendar looks like," Ryder said. "But that's not past practice; that's not what we've done here. We turned it over to the calendar committee; they present their options; the staff votes. Majority rules - period. End of discussion."
Board member Al Ringer agreed with Ryder and advocated for adopting the calendar for a year and revisiting the issue next year.
"Next year, they can revisit it and garner more support for the option they like best," Ringer said. "For now, it's already done."
The board voted on keeping the calendar as it was presented a month earlier, with Tiboni and Dean Korri dissenting, both citing dissatisfaction with the selection process.