Schools' half-days are an unnecessary burden

By Times editorial
Published April 22, 2007

The Hernando County School District's use of so-called professional-development days has developed into a teacher perk that is a problem for working parents. At least two School Board members, Sandra Nicholson and John Sweeney, believe it is a schedule that needs to be revised and we agree.

As Times staff writer Tom Marshall reported recently, Hernando County has more early dismissal days (13) than any public school district in the Tampa Bay region. And those 13 half-days are in addition to four full days set aside for professional development.

Compare that with neighboring counties (see accompanying list) and it is apparent that Hernando school employees and students are enjoying much more time out of the classroom.

How did this happen?

It appears the district allowed professional-development days to be used as a carrot in negotiating contracts with the teachers union.

In lieu of bigger pay raises or some other tangible benefit, the teachers have accepted increased professional-development days as a sort of compensation.

That never should have occurred. The district should pay teachers what they are worth and to teach, not create more time outside the classroom.

Sweeney and Nicholson point out that so many shortened school days are a burden on parents who either must take off from work to be with their children, or arrange for day care.

The board members also correctly acknowledge that many parents do neither, allowing their children to be dropped off at an empty house. That lack of supervision, especially for younger students, creates safety issues.

When the next contract is negotiated with teachers, the School Board should trim the number of professional days to bring the total in line with other counties in the region.

Or, if the board does not wish to tackle that issue, it should, at a minimum, insist that the half-days off be consolidated into full-days. That would help parents greatly by cutting in half the number of days they need to arrange for extra child care.

School district 2007-08 calendars


** Hillsborough figures are for 2006-'07 school year

(Source: School districts. Data show early release and professional days during the regular school year only.)


Early release days

Professional days
Hernando 13 4
Pasco 0 4
Pinellas 6 5
Hillsborough** 3 2
Citrus 8 3