Saline School Board Approves Principal Appointments, Debates 'Balanced Calendar'

 04/28/2016 - 00:01

Saline Area Schools Board of Education President Paul Hynek delivers a presentation on the "balanced calendar."

The Saline Area Schools Board of Education ushered in a new era of administration Tuesday night, unanimously approving the appointment of David Raft as principal of Saline High School and Brad Bezeau in the same top role at Saline Middle School.

Raft is a 25-year employee of the district and has spent the past eight years as principal of the middle school, according to Superintendent Scot Graden.  Bezeau has 15 years under his belt in Saline, and has been the principal at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School for five years.

School Board President Paul Hynek made it clear that the ultimate decision of who to appoint to each position was up to Graden, but expressed satisfaction that he and the board were included in portions of the hiring process.

Raft and Bezeau were both present to hear the board approve their appointments.

“I am very excited and humbled at the opportunity to be the Saline High School principal,” Raft said in the district’s press release distributed following the meeting. “I have committed my entire career to Saline Area Schools and I look forward to many years at Saline High School.”

Bezeau expressed similar excitement and gratitude.

“I look forward to beginning my work with the students and families of Saline Middle School and becoming a part an already thriving school community and tremendously hard working staff,” he said.

Graden said the district will post details related to the now vacant principal position at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School the week of May 2.

The latter portion of the meeting saw discussions concerning the potential for year-round school for the district, also known properly as a balanced calendar.

A balanced calendar does not include any more school days than a traditional one, but eliminates the large summer break in favor of dispersing some of those vacation days throughout the calendar year.

Hynek said the classic long summer break is a vestige of agrarian America, when children were expected to work as farm help during the peak agricultural months.

“It just continues and continues,” he said, suggesting there is no practical reason for it contemporarily other than perhaps some pushback from the Michigan tourism industry, which thrives on summer travel.

With the recent addition by the state legislature of five more mandated school days, Hynek said districts are evaluating all of their options in terms of how to incorporate them.

He said petitions to the state by many districts, including Saline, to start school prior to Labor Day have been uniformly rejected.

Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Steve Laatsch along with Hynek led a discussion of the anticipated pros and cons of year-round schooling.

Laatsch said there is research to suggest that a balanced calendar can improve student achievement, especially for at-risk and English language-learner students who suffer most from what is termed “summer slide,” or a loss of academic comprehension from the previous school year.

Other potential benefits include less stress and burnout for students, fewer teacher substitute days and more timely cohesion with dual and early college enrollment.

“So this model potentially would fit better with local universities and Washtenaw Community College, for better opportunities there,” Laatsch said.

There are plenty of negatives to take into account as well, according to Laatsch.

“Some argue that this would put an undue burden on families due to the irregular vacation schedule,” he said, which is a seemingly common sentiment.

Other concerns include deviating from normalized sports and extracurricular activity schedules if other districts in the area stay with the current calendar, as well as shorter periods for maintenance activities like the recently approved bond improvements.

It is also unclear how a year-round schedule would square with rigid standardized testing dates.

Two potential balanced calendars were shown during the presentation, including one in which students were away from the classroom for no more than 15 school days at a time, and another where that amount is reduced to 10.

Hynek said the next step is to survey a cross section of the community and hold focus groups as to the viability of the plan.

Regardless of the outcome, Hynek said any decision related to a balanced calendar for the 2017 to 2018 school year would need to be made by September of 2016.

In other session work related to the ongoing bond improvement plan, trustees approved floor covering and ceramic tile bids from Mastercraft Carpet Services in the amount of $363,777, as well as a $278,150 bid from Trane Commercial Systems for mechanical controls.

The consent agenda included:

  • General funds accounts payable for $456,082
  • Bond fund accounts payable for $601,163
  • Approval of a field trip to Chicago for the Saline High School Orchestra on April 20 through 23.

The board of education will meet next on May 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Liberty School.