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Monthly half-days get the boot
The 2008-09 school year will see the early release days be eliminated.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published September 11, 2007
BROOKSVILLE - They're annoying, wasteful and ineffective.
That was the Hernando County School Board's take on the time-honored tradition of early release days. Members agreed Monday to do away with the practice for the 2008-09 school year, consolidating most of the shortened teaching days into full-day training sessions.
There are 13 half-days in Hernando's current school calendar, far more than any other school district in the Tampa Bay area. County teachers also have four full professional development days, including one state-mandated session.
By contrast, Pinellas County teachers have six early release days and five professional days. Pasco County schools have four professional days and no half-days.
Hernando officials said there was little support internally for the long-standing practice of sending students home early one day per month so teachers could meet, plan lessons or get training.
Principals complained they couldn't get enough training done during a few afternoon hours, and couldn't sustain focus between the sessions, said professional standards director Barbara Kidder.
Board members said they'd heard stories about squandered teaching opportunities on short days.
"From what I hear from teachers, it's a waste of time for student interaction," said board member Sandra Nicholson. "A lot of teachers will just show a movie or do a work day or something that's not productive."
Member John Sweeney raised security concerns in the spring, describing the hundreds of young children who must fend for themselves on afternoons when parents can't arrange child care or leave work.
"Students are being sent home before parents get there," he said Monday. "It's not safe."
Of the 13 half-days, only four are mandated in the teachers' contract for grading semester exams. Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers' Association union, said that arrangement could be discussed as part of the collective bargaining process.
Superintendent Wayne Alexander said he planned to form a study group to consider broader changes to the district's training plan.
"The current model doesn't work well," he said. "And beyond that, I don't think it works for our community."