Opinion

Parents can influence school calendar

By KATRINA LANDE

For The Beachcomber

If you have kids in the Vashon school district, chances are good that you’ve looked at the school calendar and wondered, “How is this calendar created? Who makes these decisions?”

Chances are also good that you’d like to see some changes.

Do you wish the school year ended earlier? Do you want to eliminate the midwinter break in February? Do you prefer early dismissal or late arrival?

And here’s the most important question: How are changes made?

It turns out that the school calendar is created via a complex process involving many players, including district administration, the teachers’ union and the school board. These bodies meet to discuss, negotiate and finalize the calendar.

But there’s a glaring omission in this process: the chance for families — the very community the district is here to serve — to formally voice their opinions regarding the calendar.

In the current equation, families are the least powerful factor in spite of the fact that we make up the vast majority of those affected by the school calendar.

Unlike teachers, families don’t have a collective bargaining unit through which to wield enforceable power.

Instead, we must rely on the school district to seek out our opinions and then go to bat for us when negotiating with the teachers’ union.

Since September, I’ve been urging the district to launch a comprehensive community survey to learn what parents would like the calendar to look like.

Although previous surveys have been conducted, they have proved inadequate (in my opinion) due to poor distribution, confusing wording or limited scope.

The information gathered thus far is simply incomplete, which means that the school district still doesn’t have a full understanding of families’ preferences.

A new, comprehensive and more widely distributed survey is clearly needed. Unfortunately, the district has opted not to distribute such a survey at this point. So, now what?

Now we speak up! The 2009-10 school calendar is currently under consideration, and the district needs to hear what you want. You can express your opinions in two ways:

Contact the school superintendent and the school board as soon as possible via phone or e-mail. Contact information is available on the district Web site: www.vashonsd.org.

Even better, attend the school board meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, in the McMurray Middle School library.

A calendar recommendation will be considered, and time has been set aside early in the meeting for public comment.

Remember, the school district and its employees are here to serve Vashon’s families.

If we want the school calendar to better reflect our preferences, we must make our opinions known.

This is our final opportunity to be heard regarding next year’s calendar. Don’t miss it!

— Katrina Lande has two children at Chautauqua Elementary School and volunteers there often.

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