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Proposal to adjust school year to see study

November 3, 2010

A proposal by a long-time Starkville School District administrator to implement flex quarter schooling will get a more extensive look by an appointed committee.
During its regular meeting Tuesday night, the SSD Board of Trustees allowed Millsaps Career and Technical Center Director James Stidham to form a committee to study the issue, which he has been researching since 2002.
Stidham outlined a proposal the board to consider moving towards a 9-week, quarter system of schooling rather than the traditional 9-month calendar that has been used since the early 1900s for agricultural purposes.
“As an educator with 30 plus years of experience, this is something that is dear to my heart,” Stidham said of flex quarter.
“It’s time to change a calendar that was developed for children to work in the fields.”
A flex quarter schedule would allow children to attend school for nine weeks and then have a three-week break. During the summer, the children would still have a five- to six-week break, Stidham explained in his presentation.
One major positive of the flex quarter Stidham explained is that students who fail a course during a nine-week period would be able to take a two-week remediation course directly afterwards so that there is no time for regression. That student would then still have a week break even after the remediation.
“For one thing, it will help the test scores, and to me, this is a major change,” Stidham said. “It will also help with student drop out and teacher burn out.”
“You take a potential drop out, and he sees a nine month tunnel now, but if he can see a nine week tunnel, and a three week break, then be might stick with us,” Stidham added.
Stidham explained that current State Education Supt. Tom Burnham was instrumental in the implementation of the flex quarter in some of the schools in North Carolina, and he is “all for it,” Stidham said.
Though Stidham did acknowledge some points of opposition as limiting opportunities for students to have non-academic activities, decreased teachers’ ability to use summer months for obtaining higher degrees, increased school maintenance cost and possible issues with child care and parental involvement, he felt the advantages far out weighed the disadvantages.
Stidham proposed to the board for a committee to be formed that will research the districts who already participate in flex quarter, deliver a report to the board in January for hopeful implementation for the start of the 2011-2012 school year.
Though board President Bill Weeks said he felt Stidham’s timeline was ambitious, he felt that a committee should be formed to further look into the possibilities of flex quarter schooling.

More district goals discussed

The board discussed the proposed goals for the district after last month’s meeting that had Supt. Judy Couey visiting with school administrators to gather their thoughts on the matter.
After much discussion regarding the district vision, the mission and the difference between the two and how the proposed goals fall into each category, the board asked Couey to draft a version of the goals, mission and vision to be e-mailed to the board to be voted on during the December meeting.
Also discussed was the remaining bond money, timeline to spend it and suggested projects in which to use the money. The district still have $3.6 million to spend by Sept. 15, 2012.
A list of suggested projects includes building a fieldhouse at the high school, air conditioning all gymnasiums, repairing both the east and south parking lots of the high school, renovating up to 16 restrooms in schools throughout the district, repairing the Greensboro Center auditorium and repairing the basement of the Greensboro Center.
After some discussion, board member Pickett Wilson explained that she felt the projects in most need are the ones that impact the children the most, she said.
She felt the top priority project should be the renovation of the restrooms followed by air conditioning all the gymnasiums.
Board member Lee Brand expressed hesitation to list the projects in order of priority until a ballpark estimate was made on how much each project would cost.
From there he felt the board would make the best decision based on cost. Weeks asked the administrators to bring a plan of cost to the next board meeting to start the decision-making process of which projects will be addressed.

New assistant principal introduced

Also during the meeting, Sudduth Principal Lisa Thompson was there to introduce the newly-higher Assistant Principal Kisha Thompson.
Principal Thompson explained that 17 candidates were interviewed by a committee of Sudduth personnel, ranked on a scale of one to five and the top three contenders were brought back for another round of interviews.
After the last round of interviews, Kisha Thompson was voted on unanimously by all members of the committee.
The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held Dec. 7 at the Greensboro Center at 6 p.m.

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