Nearly 100 people crowded into the Mt. Hope High School cafeteria Monday night to show their support for Kickemuit Middle School Principal Beth Hayes, who the committee voted to keep in her position for another year.
Ms. Hayes, who has been principal for nearly two years, was up for review as her current contract expires at the end of this school year. There had been talk among some committee members of moving on to another principal, prompting the outpouring of support at Monday’s meeting.
The School Committee ultimately decided to retain Ms. Hayes, emerging from executive session to approve her reappointment with no discussion. The cafeteria erupted in applause as the audience gave Ms. Hayes a standing ovation. Only School Committee member Karen Lynch voted against the appointment.
In other business Monday, the School Committee voted to delay implementing a change to the academic calendar that would have virtually wiped out February vacation next year. Instead, the traditional calendar — including February and April vacations — will remain.
The committee had previously asked Superintendent Melinda Thies to propose a new calendar that lessens vacation days during the year to protect against school cancellations for snow and hurricane days that can potentially push the school year deep into June. Thies proposed keeping April vacation, but adding three school days to the February vacation, bookended by two three-day weekends.
“I think its time has come,” Thies said of the vacation change. “In the last several years, we’ve had hurricane days and snow days that have really impacted our ability to hold instructional days. We want to optimize instructional time at key times — and that’s not really at the end of the year.”
While not opposing a future change outright, Bristol Warren Educational Association President Michelle Way DaSilva told the committee teachers and parents need more time to adjust to the change. Many may have already scheduled vacations or timeshares for next February. Furthermore, having a different educational calendar in Bristol and Warren than in the rest of the state’s districts could pose a childcare problem for teachers who live outside the district.
“People need time to adjust to change,” Ms. Way DaSilva said. “If they have two years to change plans, that’s another story.”
Ms. Way DaSilva also said the calendar switch could be a hardship for students, who need the break to refresh and prepare for the rest of the school year.
“Between Christmas and February doesn’t sound like a long time, but to them it is,” she told the committee. “They need something. They need to go home, recharge and come back ready.”
While the committee put off changing the calendar this year, students who cherish both February and April vacations may disappointed in the state’s plans. The state is considering changing the calendar for all school districts, eliminating one vacation after Christmas, Thies said. The change is likely to take effect for the 2015-2016 school year.
“There seems to be support for modifying the calendar across the state,” Thies said. “There’s a good, strong educational basis for doing it.”