Board votes 4-3 to approve Mehlville’s ’13-’14 calendar

Fedorchak urges members to reject 2013-’14 calendar

By Kari Williams

The Mehlville Board of Education will not consider extending student-teacher instructional time at least until the 2014-2015 school year.

Board members voted 4-3 last week to approve the 2013-2014 school calendar with 174 student-teacher contact days and an Aug. 15 start date. The calendar includes 87 days per semester and eight, two-hour early dismissal days for professional development.

Voting in favor of the 2013-2014 calendar were board Vice President Elaine Powers, board Secretary Larry Felton and board members Mark Stoner and Kathleen Eardley. Opposed were board members Ron Fedorchak and Rich Franz and board President Venki Palamand.

Fedorchak said he believes the school year needs to be extended. He urged board members to vote against the calendar and return discussions to the calendar committee.

“… We need to extend the school year. We do need to do it for several reasons …,” Fedorchak said. “The most obvious one is student achievement. I found some data that really does support that kids who are struggling in school, it really benefits them …

“… Overall, the student body would definitely be helped by additional time,” Fedorchak said. “With Common Core (State Standards) coming, we’re asking our teachers to do more and more and we’re not giving them more time to do that. If we get behind …, the effects will snowball …”

In urging board members to vote “no” on the calendar, he said, “Our neighboring districts are providing 180 days to their students. We’re giving that away … I do understand the need for professional development, but we should not do it by closing school early …”

Palamand said he agreed with Fedorchak.

“… I’d like to see an increase in student-teacher instructional time, and I think the discussion for the board in the future is when you’re looking at average salaries, the average classroom teacher makes around $53,500. Add in insurance, it goes to about $59,000. Add in the 14 percent for retirement, plus the 1.5 percent for Medicare, you’re looking at a total compensation package of around $68,000.

“So I think as a board, as a community, what’s a reasonable request for a total compensation package of around $68,000? And I would hope the board would talk about this in the future. I won’t be around, but if student achievement is our No. 1 goal, which it is, student-teacher instructional time is where rubber meets the road. That’s where true learning takes place. I think we have great teachers at Mehlville. I’d like to find a way to have them in the classroom longer …”

Last week’s meeting was Palamand’s last on the board as he was defeated in his re-election bid in the April 2 election.

At a special meeting last month, the board opted to have representatives meet with the Mehlville National Education Association, or MNEA, to discuss the possibility of extending the 2013-2014 calendar. Fedorchak, Powers and Stoner met with MNEA representatives.

Superintendent Eric Knost told the board last week the MNEA and board representatives have “an interest in making (extending the school year) a focus going into next year for the following year’s calendar.”

Knost said there was discussion about making the district’s calendar committee a committee of the board “and having the calendar committee possibly expand their parameters and create different options to consider.”

Stoner said while he does not disagree with Palamand and Fedorchak at this time, it might be “difficult to do some backtracking.”

“The last thing I want to do with this district, as stewards of the district, is make a hasty decision,” Stoner said. “So I thank you for your input, but I think at this juncture it’s just too late to make that decision.

“I think having an early discussion next year and a focus of the board retreat this August is the appropriate course of action.”