Tag Archives: snow days

Nonobservance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

As we, here in the North celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with a day off school, we might want to think of several school districts in the South who are taking major heat for requiring students to attend school today. Why would they do that? Blame it on the weather.

Many school districts in the South have missed several days of school by now, especially after this week’s snow and ice storms. Their concern, which is understandable, is that it is only January 16th, some districts there have already lost as many as eight days, and historically, they have a lot of snow in February and March as well. Some districts have also wiped out Presidents’ Day in February, and many are talking about reducing or doing away with spring break altogether. What would cause such drastic measures? You guessed it…state achievement tests!

The decision to make up one snow day on Martin Luther King Jr. Day has created quite an outcry in the South even though administrators have tried to explain their dilemma. As Michael Schlabra, director of administrative services for Gilmer County Schools explained, “With high-stakes testing that occurs in late April, we’re trying to maximize instructional days before these high-stakes test as much as we can.” They argue that to tack these days on to the end of the school year, which has been traditionally done in the past, does nothing to help them to prepare students for state tests which will be done by then.

The issue is especially touchy in Georgia, King’s home state. Edward DuBose, the president of Georgia State Conference NAACP stated, “Those excuses are unacceptable. To substitute the legacy of what Dr. King stood for, to reduce it to an inclement weather day, is unacceptable. … (It) reflects the ultimate disrespect of an entire people.”

In North Carolina, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools had designated Martin Luther King Jr. day as a weather make-up day two years ago. In a statement on their website it said: “Teachers and principals are encouraged to discuss Dr. King and his legacy as part of their lessons on January 17 to help students understand and observe the holiday.” Peter Gorman, the superintendent of the school system said that they are stuck due to state law that mandates 180 days of instruction and that their school year should begin and end on certain dates.

But the Charlotte NAACP doesn’t see it that way, and made this statement on their website: “The NAACP on behalf of the African-American and minority community is appalled and thoroughly incensed at Peter Gorman’s decision to use the MLK holiday as a snow make-up day. Once again Dr. Gorman has shown total disdain and disrespect for a very significant part of this community.”

I can see all sides of this sensitive issue. For many it probably does feel like a lack of respect for the man whose life we should honor on that day. For parents, it is unfair if plans have already been made for this day, President’s Day, or spring break, especially if the cancelling of those plans is going to be at a cost to them. And for those who fought to see Martin Luther King Jr. Day observed as a national holiday, I certainly understand their disappointment and righteous anger.

But here is the straight and honest truth from an educator’s point of view. Before the administering of state tests, we did make up snow days at the end of the year or sometimes over spring break, because instruction was instruction and could be done anytime. But sadly, times have changed and the reality is we are forced to teach to these tests, like it or not, and losing valuable test-prep days makes it more of a challenge than it already is to get students to pass these tests with flying colors. I’m sure the teachers in these districts who are forced to give up their day off are just as unhappy as the students, their parents, and community leaders are. But this is the reality we live in; it is the reality our government supports. So complain to them, if they’ll listen. These school systems are only trying to do the job they are mandated to do, and sometimes it hurts.

Two last thoughts on this topic…First, where is it more likely that students will hear about Martin Luther King Jr. today, at home or at school? Second, I can’t help but feel that if King was alive today and was asked what he thought was most important; having a day off to honor his memory or attending school in order to catch up days lost due to weather to ensure better preparedness for state tests, I think his choice would be obvious. Don’t you?

Better Snow Days Ahead

I wrote a blog recently about the ridiculous changes that were made in Ohio by our current governor, Ted Strickland, to reduce our snow days this year to three and next year to zero calamity days. Well, good news…

Our governor-elect, Republican John Kasich, told a local newspaper that when he takes office, he wants to go back to five calamity days a year based on the fact that Ohio is clearly a state which receives its fair share of snowy weather. And what helped influence his desire to change this policy? Wouldn’t you know it took his 10-year old daughter, Reese, to bring up the obvious; three snow days are unreasonable. Her opinion was reinforced to him by other children and their parents who felt that this policy was just wrong.

Thank you in advance, Governor Kasich, first, for being willing to listen to your constituency and second, for having the intelligence to reject a bad policy and the wherewithal to want to improve it.

Ohio Reduces Snow Days

With a snowstorm imminent, I am concerned, as many teachers and parents probably are tonight in the state of Ohio, about the new decision by our governor to reduce our snow days from our usual five a year to only three a year. Worse yet, next year we will get no snow days at all. Are you kidding me?

We live in a state that receives its fair amount of snow and an occasional lake effect snow that can be a true nightmare. So what are the leaders of our state thinking when they reduce or do away with our snow days? We have pretty much been told not to expect a snow day this year at all. The plan is to call for a two-hour delay instead. Now, that’s just fine if those two hours are productive and the roads have been well-cleared in the interim. But what happens when the snow doesn’t cooperate during those two hours and continues to reign down its fury? All it will take is for a bus full of students or a parent trying to drive their child into school to be involved in a major accident for this new policy to receive the scrutiny it deserves. My hope is that cooler heads will prevail before such a tragic incident occurs and snow days will be reinstituted to protect children rather than forcing them to be placed in harm’s way.

Let’s reverse this ridiculous policy before it puts children at risk! Is the loss of one to five days of school more important than the safety of our children?