DeKalb Schools Extends Days in November

The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) will continue to add 20 minutes to its school day through Thursday, Nov. 30, in an effort to recapture time lost due to the storm known as Hurricane Irma.

This will allow DCSD to recover three of the four days lost to Irma. The district will waive the fourth day. We will be off for Thanksgiving and Winter Break as regularly scheduled.

Important Dates:

• There will be no 20-minute extended day on Halloween (Tuesday, Oct. 31).
• DCSD schools will also remain open on Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 7).
• Schools will also be closed Nov. 20-24 for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
• Winter Break will remain as originally scheduled.


A DeKalb Schools teacher was motivated to send their thoughts about the make up schedule to me so that I might share with you.

Teachers

From a DeKalb Schools Teacher

I wish I didn’t feel the need to have a teacher rant, but I think today is time.

When Hurricane Irma hit, Dekalb County was one of the hardest hit in the metro area. We had more trees down, more power outages, and more impacted schools than any other county in the region. I agreed with the decision to keep the schools closed because I have been in a situation many times where one school has had to evacuate to another school because the facility is not safe. We have had water outages and power outages over the years, and I can tell you that when we house another school it is extremely hard for that school to get anything done. Most of the time, our first priority is just making sure that the kids are safe and that they have suitable facilities to be fed and go to the bathroom. It is hard to teach a class effectively in a gym with 10 other classes in the room simultaneously, with no whiteboard, no desks for the kids… you see my point. Many people ranted that it was stupid for us to be out, but as a parent of a student with a kid at a facility with no power for 3 days, I was understanding.

When Dekalb decided to make up 2 days, I ALSO understood it. We have no idea what the winter is going to bring, and making up time during first semester was necessary… especially for schools on the 4×4 block, getting a class completed in one semester. So, we added 20 minutes to the school day for the month and we added election day. So, now we are on par with all of the other counties in the surrounding metro Atlanta area.

Since the hurricane, the county has waffled back and forth on what decision should be best. First, the school days were going to be extended through December, then that was backtracked to October, with the promise of a decision by October 16. Adding days using the Thanksgiving break and the Winter break were options that were on the table. According to Dekalb County News Now, “The decision to extend school days in November was made after surveying parents, teachers, principals, and other groups”. Maybe I am just out of the loop, but I know that I never received any kind of survey.

So, four days after the expected announcement, we are now being asked to extend our days by another 20 minutes for November. Why? Most teachers will tell you that a 20-minute extension has been ineffective. Even in a school that is trying its best to maximize the time, by the time the kids transition from one subject to the targeted learning time… you maybe have 15 minutes at best. By the time the lesson is explained, the kids have 10 minutes to work. Nothing is really being accomplished. Having a school on a 7-period schedule and adding 3 minutes per class, is that really benefitting the kids?

Especially for the parents in the middle schools, this has created a lot of inconvenience for families. Kids riding buses are not getting home much before 5 PM at the earliest, and many are getting home later than that. If your child has after-school activities, this extension is affecting travel time and traffic. It has caused added stress without a lot of educational benefit.

So, if we know that this choice has added little educational impact and has increased stress on families, then why are we making up another day when all the other counties ALSO missed two days under the state of emergency? The only reason I can think of is to make the teachers make up contractual hours. This is where my understanding goes flying out the window.

For most teachers, the job goes well beyond the contracted school day. Every minute that I work outside of those eight hours, that is me working on my own time. While there might be teachers in every building in every school system in the USA that only work during their contracted time, most us work LONG BEYOND those contracted hours. Elementary teachers get minimal planning time. Middle and high school teachers get a little more, but you might be amazed at how many of those hours get eaten away by parent conferences, SST meetings, 504 meetings, grade level meetings, required paperwork that has nothing to do with your actual class, and covering for your colleagues because we don’t have enough subs showing up for school when teachers are absent.

Most of us grade papers on our own time. Most of us create those really creative lessons on our own time. Every minute that we put into our classrooms outside of the workday does NOT COUNT towards contractual time. Yet, we do it. Why? We do it for the kids. It sounds corny, but it is true. Everything that a good teacher does is done with the children in mind. A lot of us WERE working during the 4 days off as soon as we had power. Why? It was the perfect opportunity to get things done while stuck in the house.

So, if this 20-minute extended day has been inconvenient for parents, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, and substitutes that are not getting paid any more for their time… and it has little educational benefit, why are we doing it? Why are we doing it if we are now on par with all of the surrounding counties in terms of days lost due to Hurricane Irma?

My logic takes me down to two reasons. What do you think they might be?

29 responses to “DeKalb Schools Extends Days in November

  1. What I hear from that teacher is what I have heard from each teacher I know in the district.

    As a parent, I was appalled by the decision and despite my child’s school (Kittredge Magnet) making the best of the decision by using it to allow children to work on homework and get an extra recess once a week, it has been as bad as I thought. The extra 20 minutes make a much longer than that difference for when my child can actually get home because of the rapidly increasing traffic on 285 in the afternoons. It just took 20 minutes away from extracurriculars which still release at the same time.

    I am even more disgusted now that they decided to extend it another month. It seems clear this was an attempt to mitigate and spread out the outrage to minimize effective public response while sticking to the same idiotic decision they once set upon.

  2. Patty Wiliams

    This teacher expressed my thoughts exactly!

  3. Sandra R Stone

    I totally agree with this teacher.

  4. Mass checkout needed on one day…all 30 mins from dismissal.

  5. Exactly. Only a day really recovers a missed day, and the late dismissal is a killer in Middle School.
    Clever how it was dropped late on a Friday!

  6. I agree totally with everything you said and I didn’t receive a survey either and I have 2 kids at 2 different schools. My other point was that if parents couldn’t find 20 minutes a day for their kids to do something educational the week that we were out then shame on them. Education starts at home and we have let parents get off the hook. I have been educating my daughters since day 1 and they are both Magnet- Gifted High Achievers and everyday I am looking for an educational moment whether we are discussing their day, riding to school in the morning, watching the news in the evenings, over dinner wherever it occurs and most of our conversations last about 15-20 minutes or more. There is your 20 minutes made up .

  7. My Faith In System Has Gone

    I wish we could have common sense involved.,needless to say the last few weeks of 20min extension has been rough. Never got a survey either.

  8. Oh my goodness! I could not agree more with the teacher who wrote this article. These 20 minutes have been totally inaffective. Thanks for mentioning all of the numerous hours teachers spend working off contractual time. Also, it is absolutely ridiculous to go on a regular schedule for Halloween, ( 1 day). I think we’ ve done enough. Dekalb must remember we are a very diverse school system. I shutter to think about those schools with a large number of ELL populations. This 1 day change will cause a lot of unnecessary confusion. Unless- Dekalb is going to send this information to parents in the over 100 languages that represent our district. I could say so much more.

    PS I never received a survey.

    Thank you brave teacher for expressing the feelings of most of your colleagues so eloquently.

  9. This and That

    Thank you DeKalb Teacher! Very well said! I am a teacher also and never received a survey of any kind! I was just wondering if anyone on here got a survey or know of anyone who got a survey! No one that I know of received a survey at my school (yes, in DeKalb).

  10. Stan can you publish the survey that was given to the stakeholders?

  11. I’m not sure how the survey was distributed nor to whom. I’m told these were the options.

    Option A: Makeup 1 Additional Day: (choose one)

    * Monday, November 20
    * Thursday, December 21
    * 20 minutes each day during the month of November (equivalent to one instructional day)

    Option B: Makeup 2 Additional Days: (choose 2 options to equate to 2 days)

    * Monday, November 20
    * Thursday, December 21
    * Friday, December 22
    * 20 minutes each day during the month of November (equivalent to one instructional day)
    * 20 minutes each day during the month of December (equivalent to one instructional day)

  12. As a stakeholder, I was not surveyed. I went to the DCSD website to look for any information about a survey, meeting, or other outlet to provide my input. There was no information about how the stakeholders would be given an opportunity to give opinions or make a choice.
    None of the options make any sense. Using the Monday of Thanksgiving is laughable. The same goes for using December 21. No one is showing up.
    As a taxpayer, I would like to know:
    Are all employees in DCSD making up these days by adding 20 minutes to each work day?
    Is the 20 minutes make up time each day in October (and now November) required only in the schoolhouse?
    Where was information posted allowing stakeholders to give input?
    How many teachers were surveyed?
    How many parents?
    How many community members?
    In what Regions do those surveyed live?

  13. DSW2Contributor

    Stan,

    On October 11, 2017 an opening for a “Teacher, French HS” at the Dekalb School of Arts was posted on PATS (Paperless Applicant Tracking System), the Dekalb School District’s list of job openings. I think this is the direct link to the listing:
    https://pats.dekalbschoolsga.org/OpportunityDetails.aspx?vsopt_id=57587

    If that doesn’t work, go to http://pats.dekalbschoolsga.org/OpportunityListing.aspx and search for French.

    The advertisement is for the job that James Dickson used to have; Mr. Dickson was the subject of Maureen Downey’s September 5, 2017 Get Schooled posting “How should DeKalb Schools respond to a lockdown, a video and a lapse of diligence?”
    http://getschooled.blog.myajc.com/2017/09/05/a-lockdown-video-and-lapse-of-diligence-is-dekalb-over-or-under-reacting-to-triplets-of-belleville-flap/

    I’ve been trying to post the above comment over at the AJC, but the AJC’s commenting system will not accept it.

  14. Stan, could you please ask the administration to post the survey results, including the makeup of the respondents (parents, teachers, administrators, community members)?

    Could you also ask them if central office staff is also staying late every day?

    Finally, they really need to investigate the flashing school zone lights. They are off when kids are being dismissed, which is dangerous. The whole county isn’t aware of the school system’s dumb idea. People are flying through these school zones when there are no lights.

    *sigh*

  15. When DCSD says survey, that’s often short for asking a few people – maybe the calendar committee or teacher advisory, parent council, etc. Most school councils would not have been able to legally call a meeting and get a quorum to discuss and provide a recommendation given the short time for gathering feedback unless they already had a meeting scheduled during that time. No survey came out from my kids 3 schools. For transparency, the admin should reveal their “sources” just like we should know who is on the calendar committee each year so we can provide input to our area rep.

  16. My Faith In System Has Gone

    Well at least I can thank DCSS for making an easy decision for me. This decision initially made, then changed , then the non survey fiasco and now this new decision makes me absolutely certain DCCS will never really take the community feedback seriously. So if and when my kid’s Elementary school gets redistricted or the Cross Keys high school gets rebuilt, I know I can save my precious time by not going to any meetings because they just don’t care. Really disappointed in the running of this extremely large school system. I’m realky shaking my head over here trying to understand the rationale when just about Everyone opposes it with valid and sensible reasons why they oppose it.

  17. Chamblee Middle School Teacher Removed: was fired in Ohio
    http://www.ajc.com/news/local-education/dekalb-schools-math-teacher-leave-was-fired-ohio-for-misconduct-abuse/zGlmUTAIhzzuy5HI4hmf1N/

    Mr. Jester,
    I am not sure about the correct place to post this, but I think that it is important. My purpose is not to make bad comments about this person. I only know the information that is listed in the article. I am sorry for the disruption that this causes the school and its students.
    I am concerned about the steps the we take before someone is hired. I understand that there are reasons that people need to be removed. Yesterday there was an article about Tucker’s principal being reassigned.
    The HCM Department has been without a head almost a year. It seems like it was in November of last year that the head of HCM first left due to illness. This is a critical job. Hopefully. we can find the right person for it and attention will be given to both internal and external jobs.

  18. dekalbteacher

    Stan,

    Can you find out why the superintendent did not want to include the most important people involved in protecting and delivering instruction: teachers? The board has approved more spending for communications but this “survey” wasn’t communicated to teachers. We had to read about it in the AJC. Our principal didn’t ask teachers for input, and our school council didn’t ask teachers for input. Many on our school council didn’t agree with either option.

    Please note the communications from the Superintendent indicate that people were surveyed-not that the surveys were used for any decision-making.

  19. I am curious if school councils received the survey, how many of them did not follow correct procedures and announced a called meeting to vote? They could not answer the survey as individuals could they if it is sent to the school council? Isn’t that a big “no-no” since they school councils to fall under “Open Records,” and must post agendas 24 hours in advance of a meeting?

  20. Lynn, I doubt many, if any, councils came together and voted on a resolution. If anything, they made a few phone calls and/or traded emails. Then the chair may have sent in their thoughts on the issue.

    DeKalbTeacher, I’m not sure how input was gathered on this. If school councils were asked to provide input, there are usually teacher representatives on the council.

    I wouldn’t say the administration ignored the input. I would say they consider it but don’t feel obliged to go with the general consensus.

  21. But isn’t that illegal for a school council to do? They have to follow ORR procedures. They function just like you on the school board. You can not vote on an item without a published agenda neither can they. Or am I wrong? Looking for answers and guidance.

  22. It isn’t illegal as long as there was no vote taken. The chair can speak for the council even if there was no official resolution. Any related emails are subject to ORR.

  23. serenityprayerplease

    I never saw a survey, but I did see a link to an email address in a PTSA newsletter. I did send an email. It seemed they only took comments via this email address, so if it wasn’t passed along by the schools/PTSAs then folks wouldn’t have seen it. Further, the announcement was supposed to happen on 10/16. I called the district on 10/20 and I got the impression that to have been forgotten about.

    Compared to a few years ago, the county has been better about communicating; I hope that this dropped ball is a rare mistake, and not the beginnings of another tumble into active avoidance of making announcements. I believe the suddenness of the makeup days just created a lot of chaos with no one set to follow up properly.

  24. This and That

    I hope that all of the parents are aware that we are going back to regular dismissal for today, October 31. It will be interesting to see if any students will be brought back to school because no one is at home today! Then we go back to the 20 minutes tomorrow! 🙂

  25. Mr. Jester,

    I am not sure where to ask this question. Why is the HR report posted for the meeting on November 6, 2017 minus any names? Shouldn’t this be public information?

  26. They run it a couple of days before the meeting and then add it to the agenda item.

  27. DSW2Contributor

    The AJC and “The Champion” are reporting that the Principal of Bethune Middle, Myron Broome, has been removed — “The Champion” article alleges that he groped another DCSD employee during a conference in Macon:
    http://thechampionnewspaper.com/news/local/bethune-middle-principal-removed-following-alleged-groping/

  28. I was alarmed to see a “vote today” sign in front of my child’s school this morning when I dropped him off. It is very concerning that any individual can walk into my child’s school today, without metal detectors or bomb-sniffing dogs or any other security measures in place, and present himself or herself ostensibly to vote.

    Normally, individuals are only permitted in my child’s school when their identity is known. Recent school shootings and related incidents have involved students or parents known to the community, and it is bad enough living with that small but nagging fear in the back of your mind that it could happen at your own child’s school if security measures are somehow breached and someone comes unhinged or feels he has a score to settle. But when ANYONE can walk into a school voting location, and there are absolutely no safeguards and no deterrents, this must be rectified.

    Surely there are enough churches, community centers, libraries, and other public buildings available as voting locations. Schools that are in session should NOT be utilized under any circumstance.

  29. The DeKalb County School District will return to its normal class schedule this Friday, Dec 1.