Small Realities

Inside the mind of Lance Schonberg

What I Said to the School Board

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Not long after I posted yesterday afternoon, I e-mailed my letter to the School Board Trustees, the Director of Education, the Minister of Education, and nearly everyone else.  Below is the entire text of what I sent, with the exception of the names of the Student Trustees (I assume they’re under eighteen and it’s not my place to reveal their identities, although you can find the names on the school board website, so obviously someone isn’t concerned).  But I should first give you the contents of a note on the calendar itself because I reference it several times in the letter. 

“The 2009-2010 calendar provides for 196 possible school days between September 1, 2009 and Jun 30, 2010.  The school year shall include a minimum of 194 school days of which two days must be designated as professional activity days with respect to specific provincial education priorities as outlined in Regulation 304 and up to four extra days may be designated by the board as professional activity days.  The remaining school days shall be instructional days.  The boards may designate up to ten instructional days as examination days.”
Let me know, did I get the mix right between polite and pissed off?

And now, the letter:

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Lance Schonberg
290 Bridge St W,
Napanee, ON
K7R 2G1
schonberg_lance@hotmail.com

Brenda L. Hunter, Director of Education
Ann Goodfellow, Chair of the Board
Limestone District School Board
Postal Bag 610,
220 Portsmouth Ave,
Kingston, ON
K7L 4X4

 

08 May 2009
Dear Ms. Hunter & Ms. Goodfellow;
Recently I received, in the agenda of my youngest child, a letter dated 17 April notifying parents and guardians of the details of the 2009-2010 School Year Calendar.  Having read the letter thoroughly and examined the Calendar in detail, I can reach either of two conclusions:  first, the Calendar was poorly thought out or, second, the Calendar was designed to create maximum inconvenience and irritation for students, parents, and teachers.

While it seems mathematically sound, this move on the part of the Board creates a school year running a full ten months, from the first day of September to the final day of June, merely to gain an extra three instructional days, as there is a “Board Designated Holiday” on the Friday of that early first week of school, prior to Labour Day.  An examination of the information contained in the Calendar would seem to show a great deal of room to work creatively to avoid the extra week.

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  1. There is an extra “Board Designated Holiday” on the Friday before March Break.  While most parents are eager to have extra time with their children, this “bonus” holiday was not present in the 2008-2009 school year and would seem to be present in 2009-2010 only to balance one of the three extra instructional days from the week of classes added before Labour Day.  A school week shortened by one day creates far more childcare headaches for far more people than an entire week off. 
  1. Quoting from the note at the bottom of the Calendar, “up to four extra days may be designated by the board as professional activity days.”  The words “up to” and “may” in this sentence would seem to indicate that such a practice is optional.  In the event that these days are deemed necessary, the Board appears to have the discretion to place them at any point in the school year. 
  1. From the same note, “The boards may designate up to ten instructional days as examination days.”  Again, there seems to be the freedom to choose a different number of days here.  But even leaving it at ten, examining the Calendar seems to show wasted instructional days at the end of each semester following the examination days, making the placement of these examination days suspect, particularly noting the instructional days falling after the examination days in June.

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Turning to the letter itself, I would like to examine several quotes

“Other school boards across the province,” reads very much like, “everyone else is doing it.”  This is a logic we rarely accept from our children as it’s usually considered an excuse for lazy thinking.  All 31 of the major English language Public School Districts in Ontario have made their 2009-2010 calendars, or at least start dates, available online.  Only 17 are beginning classes prior to Labour Day.  While this seems like a slim majority, those 17 districts account for only 35% of the students in the English public school system in Ontario.  The typical method used by those boards beginning classes on the 8th of September is to schedule two “Professional Activity” days in the week before Labour Day and not have an extra “Board Designated Holiday” before March Break, neatly eliminating the “need” to have classes begin a week early.

“We hope that having these dates now will help with any future planning.”  The end of April was far too late for such notice and begs the question of when the calendar was actually approved.  Many businesses require vacations to be booked by the end of the calendar year for the following year, four months in advance of the notice delivered from schools.

It is worth noting that while summer vacations are often major undertakings, planned many months in advance, the concrete impacts of this decision are not merely of a scheduling nature.  Shortening the summer can only have a negative impact on the local tourism industry.  High school students frequently take summer jobs and beginning classes a week early would significantly lessen their earning potential for the summer.

Should the Board choose to leave the currently approved calendar as is, it should expect a significant attendance deficit during the new first week of school and a negative impact to the local economy.

In closing, I hope the Board will consider this letter of protest not merely a criticism, but a chance to improve on an unfortunate policy.  Thank you for your time and attention.  I look forward to a response at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

 

Lance Schonberg

CC:
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Education
Dr. Ben Levin, Acting Deputy Minister of Education
Roger Richard, Treasurer – Limestone District School Board, c/o Inquiry e-mail address
George Beavis, Trustee – Limestone District School Board
Helen Brown, Trustee – Limestone District School Board
Helen Chadwick, Trustee – Limestone District School Board
Elaine Crawford, Trustee – Limestone District School Board
Laurie French, Trustee – Limestone District School Board
David Jackson, Trustee – Limestone District School Board
Barb McLaren, Trustee – Limestone District School Board
Paula Murray, Trustee – Limestone District School Board
Peter Mouncey, Principal – Westdale Park Public School
Westdale PPS Parent Council

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Please Forward To:
{name omitted}, Student Trustee – Limestone District School Board
{name omitted}, Student Trustee – Limestone District School Board

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