The Orange Board of Education was presented with two options to consider as a calendar for the 2017-18 school year: one with two evening and one afternoon teacher conferences and one with one afternoon and one evening.
Superintendent Vince Scarpetti noted that his guiding force behind the proposed calendar was the Amity Regional School District calendar that has already be approved by the Amity board. “We wanted to do as much as we can to line days that we have, as far as early release days or days off, to make it convenient for parents. We realize that some families have older children at the middle school and high school and act as babysitters for the younger elementary-aged children,” he said.
After meeting with Orange leadership and the teachers’ league, Scarpetti created two calendars. “Something that is different from past years is that we’re having two times for parent-teacher conferences. We had an evening and afternoon option for conferences. Teachers were concerned that some parents were not able to make it because there were not two evening choices,” he explained.
“We polled the teachers, who said they’d prefer an afternoon and an evening conference, but then we continued the conversation and we came up with a Plan B with two evening conferences and one afternoon conference in late October,” he said. The difference is, there would be no minimum day for the afternoon conferences—they’d be held during the staff meeting time that is already held each week, eliminating the need for an additional early dismissal.
Board Member Mara Saccente, who noted that she was not alone in her concern over the number of early dismissal days at Orange Schools, offered to the board her analysis of days off across the region. “Amity only has three early dismissal days for professional development, Orange has five, Woodbridge has one and Bethany has six. Including all early dismissal days and professional development days, based on this year’s calendar, we have 12 half-days, Woodbridge has eight and Bethany has 13,” she said. “I know we’ve talked in the past about the amount of half-days and instructional time that we give the kids off. I don’t know that I’m alone, but we were looking for some feedback on those days off.”
“If we have a workshop for teachers of if they leave their classroom and come here for professional development, we have a substitute. When it’s a half-day or an early-release day, we don’t have to worry about that. We know it’s an added need on parents to leave work, but in order to continue to allow us to do work in our district, which is to do the heavy lifting of curriculum and professional development, that our intentions on why we’ve continued to follow the same suit (early dismissals),” Scarpetti explained. “The reason we ask for these minimum days is to lessen the impact of a child having to have a substitute teacher in front of them and also the impact of the budget and how much it’s costing for substitutes to come in,” he said. “I would ask what the average number of instructional hours we have in our district compared to other districts in our DRG,” Saccente said.
Board Member Kim Browe had some concerns about the process. “Going forward, I would ask that we can begin this process in a much more collaborative manner with ACES. In the history of the town, this has always been a much more collaborative effort, with parent reps, teacher reps, administrators and the superintendent where we could all talk about what’s best for our kids,” she said. “There may have to be some more serious conversations with ACES because for the second year in a row, the process that they took was not as collaborative as it should have been.”
Chairman Bill Kraut reminded the board that this was a first read of the calendar and that the board would subsequently be asked to approve option A, B or none of the above at the next meeting. “To Kim’s point, and I know there are a couple of other board members that feel the same way, we’d at the very least like to have a little more input from our end to ACES,” he said.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent