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Canceled School Vacation Sparks Uproar

by Melissa Bailey | Feb 14, 2013 2:53 pm

(75) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Schools, Winter Storm Nemo

Melissa Bailey Photo The decision to cancel February vacation next week prompted a flood of teacher complaints and a student petition drive Thursday, as school officials scrambled to work around people’s pre-planned vacation.

New Haven public schools closed all this week due to Winter Storm Nemo. To make up for the snow days, public schools will reopen Tuesday through Friday next week during what had been planned as February break. Schools will be closed Monday for Presidents Day.

Schools Superintendent Reggie Mayo had told the Independent Tuesday he did not intend to touch February break because it would be too late notice for staff who already have plane tickets to warm places like Florida and Hawaii. Wednesday, he changed his mind. The school system alerted staff and parents of the news in a Wednesday evening robocall.

Some parents and teachers praised the decision.

“The majority of New Haven’s children don’t ever go on a vacation,” MagnetSchoolMom noted in a comment posted to an Independent story. “I’m sure most of the parents had to use their vacation/sick time to stay home with their children this week. If they stay home again next week they will probably either face not getting paid and or losing their jobs. ... Having two weeks off would have a major effect on the children’s learning, and let’s face it, our children in New Haven need as much schooling as possible given test scores and dropout rates.”

“If we as teachers want to be respected professionally, our thinking should always be guided by what’s best for student learning,” wrote one high school teacher in an email to the Independent.

“When doctors go away, they’re on call to ensure patients’ care isn’t interrupted. Now we’re on call, and we’ve got to step up to the plate and say that what’s best for students after six days off in a row is to get back to school.”

Others were outraged.

Students started an online petition Thursday afternoon calling on Mayo to reverse his decision.

“This is not fair to students, families, teachers or administrators,” wrote Christine Puglisi, a student at Metropolitan Business Academy. “We could easily make up the 8 missed days by extending the school year 4 days and taking some of April break, when people are actually prepared to cancel plans.”

New Haven planned for only two snow days this year.

“I strenuously object to the decision to cancel February break,” wrote Wilbur Cross High School dad Ira Rosofsky in a letter to top school officials. He said he plans to spend part of the break visiting colleges with his son. “My child will not be attending school for at least part of next week,
although I abhor the idea that you are putting him in the position of missing school—even for a valid educational reason.”

BOE Facebook Page Teachers union President Dave Cicarella said he has been “flooded” with over 50 calls, text messages and emails from upset teachers, many of whom already had planned vacations, extra jobs, doctors appointments for next week. Students, parents and teachers also protested the decision on the New Haven Public Schools Facebook page.

“I’m resentful. I want my vacation back,” one longtime elementary school teacher told the Independent Thursday. “I don’t mind working, but I feel that we got shafted.”

“I’m not one of the lucky people” with plans for a vacation, she said. But she had plans to work a second job and visit her eye doctor and her physician. She said she lined up the second job, helping parents through the state Department of Children and Families, after Mayo’s public remark that he did not intend to cancel February break.

“My grandchildren are brokenhearted,” she added—they were going to sleep over Tuesday and Wednesday and spend time with grandma. “Now none of that is happening.” She said they cried when they heard the news.

Facebook is “blowing up” with teachers upset about the news, the teacher said.

“It was shocking,” she said. “Mayo should not have recanted what he said. He led us to believe one thing and then he caved.”

Schools spokeswoman Abbe Smith said at the time Mayo indicated he would leave February break intact, which was Tuesday, the school district was still hoping to have kids return to school Thursday and Friday. However, on Wednesday, it became clear that the giant mounds of snow on the street would make it unsafe for kids to wait at bus stops or walk to school, and the district decided to cancel school Thursday and Friday.

That decision raised the number of missed school days to 10, eight of which the district has to make up in order to meet state law. State law requires districts to complete 180 days of school before June 30.

The state commissioner of education declined to give New Haven permission to waive the 180-day rule, according to Will Clark, the city’s chief operating officer.

Winter Storm Nemo put the district in a bind, Smith said: The only options were to cancel February break, cancel a week-long break in April, or add school days beyond June 19.

“We’re sort of running out of choices,” Smith said “If we have another storm, then we might actually run out of days to make up.”

Smith said the need to prepare for upcoming state standardized tests, which are set to begin on March 1, was one of many factors. Other factors: Missing two weeks of school poses major setbacks to student learning and cancels meals for kids who rely on getting them at school.

Even with February break canceled, the district still needs to make up four extra days. The district has not decided how to do that, Smith said. The two options are to dip into April break and/or extend the school year.

“People are upset, but unfortunately we have to make up days,” union president Cicarella said.

Cicarella said when he was consulted about the decision, he saw “no good option.” Any decision—to cancel February break, cancel April break, or add time in June—would inconvenience teachers who already had plans, he said.

Cicarella said the final decision lay with the school district. “Frankly, I would have agreed to any way they wanted,” he said. “There’s no good reason” to pick one break over another.

Meanwhile, Cicarella is working on arrangements with the school district to accommodate teachers who had vacation plans.

“If you can reschedule your plans, please do so,” he said.

But if they have already booked a vacation home, plane ticket or cruise, they can fill out a form showing evidence of those plans and proceed with one of three options: Use personal days next week (by contract, teachers get two per year, with the option to roll over an additional two from a prior year). Make up the time, after school, on days off or over the summer. Or take an unpaid leave for the missed days. Teachers won’t be allowed to take sick days for vacation next week, Cicarella said.

Cicarella said the offer is more generous than in other nearby towns, where during the snowstorms of 2011, teachers were required to pay for substitutes for each day they missed school, regardless of whether they were using personal days.

Students with vacation plans will be given excused absences next week, according to Smith.

Principals are busy making plans for how they’ll cope with an expected shortage of staff next week.

“They’ll use as many subs as they can,” Cicarella said. Teachers will be asked to sub in for each other’s classes during their prep time. They’ll also use any certified instructor in the building, including paraprofessionals and social workers, to fill in the gaps, Cicarella said.

“It’s going to be an all-hands-on-deck week,” he said.

The prospect of working extra next week to fill in for vacationing colleagues, didn’t sit well with some teachers.

“Those of us in school will go from having a vacation to almost double time (we will have to give up our breaks/preps to cover missing teachers’ classes),” said one high school teacher in a message to the Independent. “Teachers need breaks like this to regroup, catch up on work, and spend QUALITY time with family.”

“Where’s the equity,” another teacher grumbled. “Here I am stuck in the classroom with no extra compensation and they’re on the beach in Florida!”

“Nothing! And I do mean NOTHING screams vacation more than being holed up in your home because the governor and the mayor ask for your cooperation,” wrote Andrea Barros on the school district’s public Facebook page. “And to top it off and make it the best vacation ever is the soreness and pain that comes from shoveling 100 cubic yards of snow!!! I feel so rested and relaxed!! I know I will be incredibly energized when I go back on Tuesday!!”

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posted by: Morris Cove Mom on February 12, 2013  8:18pm

While I’m all for considering the safety of those driving to school and all the children at the bus stops, and think we should keep schools closed all this week, I think having them closed next week is bad planning. Mayo cites teachers who may have planned vacations. What about the parents who have had to cash in all their personal and sick days to stay home with their children this week? Or those talking days off without pay? Most families can’t afford for schools to be closed again next week. He needs to consider that first, not the handful of teachers who may have purchase tickets to “somewhere warm”.

posted by: Grandma on February 12, 2013  9:03pm

I understand that parents have a job to do and don’t need another week off i as a grandparent face the same challenges. however, February break was scheduled Blizzard 2013 was not. If you have ventured out at all you would notice that it is dangerous for the kids to stand anywhere to wait for a bus, that is of the bus can even make it down the street. it is poor planning to cancel a scheduled vacation for students and staff prior to the states CMT which begins the first week of March. this break will give the children the rest they need to take this 2 week test. I support Dr.Mayo’s decision.  this does not just effect teachers ,but administrators, bus drivers,  cafeteria personnel, and families who have planned for this time. Schools are palace of learning so with comments like parents having to cash in on personal and sick days oh well You should have though of that before you had children. do you send your kids to school when they are sick?? What do you do them?

posted by: lizv on February 12, 2013  9:39pm

No way to please everyone on this.  However, the deciding factor should be what’s best academically for the kids as opposed to anyone’s vacation plans.  Two weeks off in a row seems like a pretty big disruption to learning.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 13, 2013  9:10am

The February break should be canceled. In fact, there never should have been a Feb break. We just came off a Christmas/New Year’s break. The staff will just have to suck it up. More families go away in April than February, families that are taxpayers and residents. Extending the school year, which already goes on almost a month later than the rest of the country due to all of our breaks and holidays is just as bad. Families only have 2 months for vacations and your time off has to be balanced with all your co-workers. Cancel Feb. break.

posted by: 3144member on February 13, 2013  12:21pm

I appreciate the reason not to have school this week. I am always impressed with the work of NHPS transportation dept. I do wish that cancelling February break or a large part of it had been considered early this week. I do not know if teachers and support staff were surveyed but parents were not asked in any systemic manner.  Some might have winter commitments and missed next week but I question if there were truly not enough staff available for next week. 

@Grandma - I think we all try to use earned time responsibly.  Unless you are a 10 month employee you probably do not have enough time for even school breaks.

posted by: anonymous on February 13, 2013  2:25pm

Good decision.

posted by: HhE on February 13, 2013  2:41pm

Cancelling school for this week is the right thing to do.  I may have had little problem walking my children to school today, but we live five to ten minutes walk away.  As it was, we had to walk in the street for a bit because the “sidewalks” were more like ice rinks.  God forbid we lose a child.

(I do also get how difficult it can be for parents to look after their children on snow days.  My own situation is fairly unique and flexible, so it was not a problem for me.)

Cancelling February vacation a few days before February vacation would be unacceptable.  Better to cancel April vacation, so people would have time to plan.  (Or were you planning to reimburse non recoverable travel expenses, with all that extra money we have?)

posted by: MagnetSchoolMom on February 13, 2013  3:32pm

I totally agree that school should be canceled this week. However, I disagree that Feb. vacation should resume as scheduled. Other towns have canceled Feb. vacation, New Haven should have done the same. Two weeks off in a row is a major distraction, and New Haven wonders why test scores are low. Students in New Haven Haven have way too many days off and half days.
People also have April vacation plans made and paid for, I think the only other solution is to extend the school year further into June. Towns like Cheshire plan on going all the way to June 30, if needed.

posted by: William Kurtz on February 13, 2013  4:33pm

“People also have April vacation plans made and paid for”

I imagine people also have February vacation plans made and paid for. Is there a clearly-articulated policy for making up lost days? I work in a school district and our schedule used to state that four missed days will be added to the end of the year and any days beyond that will be made up from the beginning of the April break.

That said, two years ago, with eight snow days in January push came to shove and the Board changed the policy, rescheduling some professional days to be regular school days and restoring all but one of the April vacation days. Turns out some parents and faculty failed to recognize the element of chance in their vacation planning so canceling April vacation was an unpopular choice.

It may be time to revisit the idea of February breaks entirely.

posted by: ISR on February 13, 2013  5:48pm

It was not only teachers and staff who made travel plans for next week. Based on the expectation of February break, I made good faith plans to do college visits with my kid next week.

If there was school tomorrow or Friday, it would be a mess. Just reference the other NHI article about the “brutal” commute. I was just out walking the dog near East Rock Park and Wilbur Cross. The sidewalks are mostly one-person lanes and, in places very slippery. I had to walk in the center of Livingston Street, but then had to watch for cars. It was treacherous to cross at street corners with the mounds of snow. Try the 4-way stop corner at Livingston and Cold Spring—dangerous on a sunny morning in May.

If we wanted to ensure no closures, have school in July and August with the big vacation in January and February—although these days we have to worry about hurricanes in the fall. There’s no perfect solution, and patterns of extreme weather won’t make the future any easier.

posted by: beyonddiscussion on February 13, 2013  9:02pm

I don’t know who or what got to Dr. Mayo to prompt this reversal on February vacation. But it’s an outrage. Families have planned for this vacation. Tickets have been bought. There was no notice, no time to adjust. The choice is either to cancel a trip at great expense and inconvenience, or have your children miss four days of school. I suspect many, many staff and families will go forward with vacation plans, so what kind of learning will take place next week?
Truly an outrage.

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on February 13, 2013  9:13pm

“Mayo said Tuesday he decided not to touch February break,...By Wednesday evening, however, Mayo had changed his mind.”
My Dad used to say: It is better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you are foolish than to open your mouth and prove it.
Too late to cancel my family’s vacation reservations, reservations I purposely did not make until I heard Mayo’s first statement. Thanks Mr Mayo, next time try to figure out the real policy before declaring the wrong one.

posted by: Ali on February 13, 2013  9:37pm

Well as someone else said, there is no pleasing everyone on this. My opinion - cancelling February break this late in the game is unfortunate.  Everyone has made some kind of plans because we had to!) and now those plans, whatever they are will have to be undone.  This probably isn’t a popular sentiment, but I’d love for a few days to be added on in June when the options for camps are nearly non-existent. As to why we need a February break AND and April break, that is a whole other discussion!

posted by: ldc1962 on February 13, 2013  10:19pm

Really! This was nature atvits best… I know parents are working hard,but if their job was closed for the storm would they give their vacation back??? We’re all for the children but if the schools staff is cut in half what are they going to learn…

posted by: Willie Hoffman on February 14, 2013  12:05am

The problem started with Hurricane Sandy.  Other school districts in the area had a plan and had already taken some February break away.  Mayo never gave us a plan for what would happen in the winter.  Even if we did not have a blizzard, it is not uncommon to have scattered 5 or six snow days.  Furthermore the snow day before the blizzard was also mismanaged causing the loss of a snow day.  Poor planning, worse communication.
My wife worked this week as did I balancing care of the kids.  Next week my wife scheduled to have the week off, which requires about 3 months notice, needless to say, my daughter will not be in school next week.

posted by: Solsbury on February 14, 2013  7:51am

As usual, comments are all from a position of privilege . pretty insensitive to talk about nonrefundable tickets and vacations to faraway places. this is not typical of NHPS families. Over 99% of the students at my high school are on free and reduced lunch, so they need to come in just to get 2 good meals, and their parent (usually 1), can’t take off work. Of course the kids need to be in school.

posted by: Ali on February 14, 2013  8:57am

Solsbury- this isn’t all about privilege. Despite your impression that all the rest of NHPS parents are running off to vacation in warm places, I’m simply a working parent who made alternate arrangements for next week because I had to (elementary school kids) and because vacation time from work takes advance planning. The one thing that your high school parents don’t have to worry about childcare. It’s unfortunate if these students rely on the school for food and warmth, but how could they rely on the schools if they were going to closed next week anyway?

posted by: MagnetSchoolMom on February 14, 2013  9:03am

I couldn’t have said it better Solsbury. The majority of New Haven’s children don’t ever go on a vacation. I’m sure most of the parents had to use their vacation/sick time to stay home with their children this week. If they stay home again next week they will probably either face not getting paid and or losing their jobs. While I don’t agree with how Mayo handled the situation (first announcing we were having Feb. vacation and then saying we weren’t) I do agree with his fianl decision. Having two weeks off would have a major effect on the children’s learning, and let’s face it, our children in New Haven need as much schooling as possible given test scores and dropout rates.

posted by: ISR on February 14, 2013  9:25am

@solsbury

It is presumptuous to attack so-called people of privilege. Many people who cannot afford plane tickets to warm places will also have their plans disrupted. My children attend New Haven schools where classmates who qualify for free lunches also make plans for February break. You make it seem as if only the “privileged” have a life that involves planning beyond their next meal. You also imply that those who qualify for free lunches have no interest in education other than the lunch benefit.  Their plans include travel, doctor appointments, and participation in locally organized break programs of an athletic, educational, and camp variety.

Many people, from all economic levels—my child included—will not attend school next week. Many teachers will use vacation time to go ahead with their plans too. I doubt that there will be an optimal educational environment.

posted by: RR on February 14, 2013  9:25am

I find it odd that in New England, there would be a school district without a specific policy for snow days. In my hometown there were a couple of spring holidays built into the calendar that could become school days if we needed to make up snow days—and everyone knew this policy and could plan accordingly. If we used up those days, additional school days were added to the end of the academic year. It’s not complicated, and as long as everyone knows the policy in advance, it cuts down on a lot of complaining and anxiety.

posted by: beyonddiscussion on February 14, 2013  9:40am

Kids should be in school, yes. But reversing yourself and adding on a full week of school with a few days’ warning is wrong. Take away some of April vacation,add days at end of the year. But people have planned trips to see colleges or family.It’s just not enough notice. Period.

posted by: katayers on February 14, 2013  10:06am

What I would like to hear is the plan to make the streets and corners safe for schoolchildren by Tuesday.  I hope we are not just going to wait for it to melt.  The corners need to be shoveled or plowed clear to allow visibility for the safety of our children.  This is much more important than round-and-round complaining and debate about a decision which has already been made.  What is the safety plan?

posted by: RichTherrn on February 14, 2013  10:35am

A little less than 70% of NHPS students are on free/reduced lunch, FYI.. so about 14,000 students, if that is being used as a measure in a discussion.
Schools do provide for students in all types of ways, not just books and learning.

posted by: AMDC on February 14, 2013  11:22am

Have to say it again… Schools are used as babysitting services for parents. Guess they can’t stand to have the kids around for more than a few days. I agree that folks need to consider the demands/sacrifices that children make before having kids. It’s not my job to feed and house YOUR children. I contribute to charities for that. I cared for MY CHILDREN. Why can’t you?  And enough of this nonsense. Teachers are glorified babysitters in most school systems, NH included. Just call it what it is.  How sad.  But it does explain why we are failing, as a nation, to educate our children adequately.
To suddenly cancel breaks is disrespectful to students, faculty, and support staff. 
ANd spend a year in the classroom of our modern “skools” before you decide that you want to give up those breaks. Most teachers are EXHAUSTED caring for YOUR KIDS.

posted by: S Brown on February 14, 2013  12:26pm

I agree that Solsbury’s comments are a little absurd. I don’t think you should be speaking on behalf of New Haven’s underprivileged kids if you think they don’t plan for vacation time and only go to school to get a hot meal. Vacation doesn’t have to mean a trip to the Bahamas, it can also be a trip to see family in New York or Boston, a visit to colleges, or participation in a vacation week camp or sports program.

The schools handled this very badly. More than the lack of consideration for people’s vacation plans was the fact that they assured everyone, AFTER four days had already been lost to this storm, that vacation would proceed no matter what. Then they wait until the 11th hour to reverse course.

The schools are going to be half empty next week as students and teachers alike proceed with the plans they made and paid for months in advance. NHPS should have planned better for snow, and if necessary should have canceled April vacation, not February.

posted by: RichTherrn on February 14, 2013  12:45pm

In 2011, when two days were taken from Feb break (2/24 and 2/25), with notification on Feb 9… student attendance was 2500 students absent K-12 out of 18,00 students (14%) .

posted by: streever on February 14, 2013  1:26pm

RR
I would find it odd in any other city in New England if I learned they had no proactive plans in place for bad winters.

In New Haven, I call it “Mayo-Style”!

posted by: CreatingUrgency on February 14, 2013  1:28pm

We need to start school sooner. August 29th is too late. There needs to be buffers put in before school starts. This whole “taking vacations away” is nonsense. If we get out earlier, then fine. But at least people won’t feel pressured to cancel plans in order to go back to work.

posted by: NHPStudent on February 14, 2013  2:04pm

How many of you had plans for next week? How many of you are losing money because you have to cancel plane tickets or doctor appointments or other activity? Is it fair that Dr. Mayo said that the February break was not going to be touched, and 8 hours later he decides to take most of it?

We have to do something to get back the break that we earned! Being stuck in the house because of 36 inches of snow is not a vacation.  We have to get back our plans! This is not fair to students, families, teachers or administrators.  Sign the petition. We have to let them know that we are not joking about this. We have to let them know that we also have a voice. It is enough, they have ignored us too many times already. Common guys! speak up!

https://www.change.org/petitions/new-haven-public-schools-preserve-our-february-break-even-if-we-have-to-make-it-up-later

posted by: NewHavenTeacherMom on February 14, 2013  3:41pm

“Smith said the need to prepare for upcoming state standardized tests, which are set to begin on March 1, was one of many factors.”

Indeed, it has to be considered. However, with plans to have “all hands on deck” we’re already stating that next week is likely to be instructional chaos. Our certified support staff is marvelous, but they won’t be prepping kids for the tests.

I don’t for a moment believe that New Haven teachers only care about getting their vacation time. (Also, please note that teachers are not paid for the three week-long breaks. Those days are not included in our contracts to work x number of days for x number of dollars.)

It’s the incredibly short notice that is the primary issue. Not having a missed-days policy in our contracts is a huge mistake.

There are other ways to make up the days. Push exams back a week, dip into April vacation, and if all else fails, petition the state.

posted by: NewNewHaven on February 14, 2013  3:56pm

“Frankly, I would have agreed to any way they wanted,” Ciarella said. “There’s no good reason” to pick one break over another.

Uh….how about one is two months away and the other is two days away?  Is Dave serious? 

The days need to be made up, and teachers are doing themselves no favors with their posts on FB, etc, but Mayo’s lame move is just so inconsiderate and clearly not thought through.  Something we NHPS teachers should be used to.

posted by: S Brown on February 14, 2013  4:09pm

This is a note to the editors: when you change the headline and rewrite the story, you shouldn’t retain all the old comments. The early comments on this article are from several days ago when the school dept was saying that it would KEEP February vacation. Now they’ve canceled it, meaning the story has completely changed. Those early comments don’t make sense anymore and shouldn’t still be attached to this same article.

Why not just post a new article instead of rewriting the old one? In general I don’t like the idea of having an article rewritten after I’ve commented on it. Noticed this is a regular habit at NHI and would suggest a change in policy.

posted by: Jesus Abraham Morales Sanchez on February 14, 2013  4:13pm

We are New Haven Public School’s students looking for what is better for our families. We do not want to be in the position in which we have to chose, losing the money for paid for vacations (planned many weeks, even months ago) or having to miss school. If it is true that it will be a normal school week, then many who chose not losing the money paid, will have to face a huge amount of work to make up. Some students like myself are taking between 1 to 5 AP classes. The amount of work would not be able to be made up soon if other people in class are already ahead. We want to really learn stuff, but we don’t want to damage our parents economy either. We are willing to work during April’s break to make up the missing week. The reason: We still have time to re-schedule our activities. Here is the link for our petition. We really hope they change their mind.

https://www.change.org/petitions/new-haven-public-schools-preserve-our-february-break-even-if-we-have-to-make-it-up-later

posted by: bunnyhop on February 14, 2013  4:38pm

As a NHPS teacher and parent, I think it was a wise decision. HOWEVER, I think it was poorly handled. The BOE never should have said we had next week off and then changed its mind. It was a bait and switch for the kids, and many of the kids are heartbroken over it. Still, heartbreak aside, we need to be in school next week. It might be inconvenient, but it is more inconvenient to most working parents if the kids are off again all next week. Time to reconsider the Feb break anyway. Maybe limit it to a four-day weekend around Presidents Day? God knows we need April break. All of the kids and teachers need that week off after a month of CMT testing.

posted by: Madeline17 on February 14, 2013  5:14pm

I am coming in late in the discussion but there are a few things I feel I must say.  I am an NHPS teacher. I am dedicated, I work hard, and I need my vacations.  All of them.  Not just April, not just February, not just December - all of them.  I do not live a life of privilege, nor do I “just show up.”  I understand that Dr. Mayo needed to make a very difficult decision. I do not envy his position.  I do feel he made the wrong decision, but not because of a vacation that I had planned.  I feel this is the wrong decision because of the above quoted 14% (or more, or less) of the students who will not attend, and because of the high number of teachers/staff who will not report for work.  The purpose of NHPS is to educate the children of New Haven and this quick fix to the snow-day problem does not support that effort.  I also think it is outrageous to expect teachers who do report to work to cover for their vacationing colleagues.  Lastly, I must respond to the notion that students need to be in school because they need the free/reduced meal.  I am a person who regularly goes to work with food for the students in my lunch bag, yet I do not agree with this thought.  Students should come to school to receive an education, for mentoring, and to develop a love for learning. Somethings have to be the responsibility of the the family.  I feel the same about the day care issue.  We are educators in a school.  Not employees of a day care center.  I will be there next week, but I think the solution of taking away February break with so little notice is not a good one and not in the best interest of the students and staff of NHPS. (BTW - An on-call doctor gets paid much more in salary than I do.)

posted by: new haven teacher on February 14, 2013  5:15pm

Re: “Frankly, I would have agreed to any way they wanted,” Ciarella said. “There’s no good reason” to pick one break over another.


I will NOT be voting for Dave next time around.  I can’t imagine a more inconsiderate/lack of foresight move.

posted by: robn on February 14, 2013  5:54pm

It seems less disruptive to teachers or parents with preplanned vacations or college searches to keep the Feb break intact, as originally planned. The two compelling arguments for cancelling next weeks break fail the logic test.
Argument 1) Two continuous weeks of no school is educationally disruptive.
(two weeks may lose you some momentum, but if students are completely and irrevocably lost after a two week break, then they weren’t OK when the break began)
Argument 2) Working parents already cashed in their vacation time during the storm.
(don’t these parents have a plan in place already for when their kids start the long summer vacation?)

posted by: Solsbury on February 14, 2013  6:11pm

There was no official announcement that Feb break was no school , it was an off hand comment by Mayo in response to a question for this site… Sorry to break it to you all that the NHI is not the sole source of official news, many nh families don’t read this site! School isn’t just for meals, but I wish people would be more sensitive to all the kids in poverty, there are many more than you think.
. If you can afford that supposed “non refundable, non reschedulable” trip, then go.
14% absent is a typical day for me and College visits are excused in my gradebook for my student!

posted by: Kaffy on February 14, 2013  6:14pm

There really is no best way to deal with this situation.  Two storms of the century in one year are not typical. Dr. Mayo’s reversal is unfortunate but understandable.  Monday morning quarterbacking will not make it better. While my personal preference is to give up Feb. break not April, the notice was too short for those with plans and will result in anything but a typical school week for the students.  Live and learn folks, alter the calendar and make Feb. a long weekend instead of a full week next year in case of further acts of God.  Have a great week no matter what you do next week.  this too shall pass.  Namaste.

posted by: Another new haven teacher on February 14, 2013  6:27pm

Teachers will have to sub in others classrooms during preps? Is this legal? We can barely get to the bathroom as it is? Is my energy going to be consumed doing other people’s jobs and pull me away from giving 100% to my kids? Are paras suppose to sub? So, this is the academic environment we feel is appropriate?

GREAT PLAN!

posted by: urban ed on February 14, 2013  6:58pm

I’ll be there. I’ll make sure the classes are covered. I’ll try to ensure that actual instruction happens as opposed to babysitting. I’ll greet whatever kids show up with my usual smile and make them feel welcome. I’ll give extra thanks to my staff for perservering through a difficult time. That’s what I do. That’s what all administrators do. And although I’ll try to shake it off, I know myself…and I know I’ll be feeling a sense of grievance at the blatant disrespect shown to the entire school community by Dr. Mayo when he said he was definitely preserving February vacation, and then a day later said Oops…No I’m not. That’s just not how one treats people. As one of many who has to now mop up your mess, I say Good Day to you Sir. Your retirement can’t come quickly enough for me.

posted by: trainspotter on February 14, 2013  7:14pm

We live in New England and we only factor two snow days into our calendars?

posted by: new havener on February 14, 2013  7:41pm

the February ‘vacation’ should be permanently eliminated, and snow-days taken from the April week. Nobody that gets two and half months vacation needs 3.5 more weeks(Thxgvng, Xmas, Feb, Apr breaks) off during the school year. I wish someone could post how many 4-day or less weeks occur during the actual school year? I can just about hear the “we need these breaks because of stress” cries already. Get over it. Many jobs come with stress, and not many at all come with so many programmed days off. and don’t make it about kids needing a break, they need discipline in going to school continually, which will help their work ethic later in life, when most jobs start with two weeks vacation for an entire year. the continuity in learning wont hurt, either.

posted by: RadicalTeacher on February 14, 2013  7:51pm

I agree with Mr. Cicarella’s statement that there really is no good solution; however, the union membership should haven been consulted. An electronic survey could have easily been sent out to teachers and staff. Its called union democracy.

posted by: ldc1962 on February 14, 2013  8:34pm

Not Dr.Mayo,Garth…Please find another Superintendent!!!!_

posted by: Noteworthy on February 14, 2013  8:57pm

Observations:

1. College tours can be done anytime. I took my son on a dozen of them, nearly all of them on the weekends.

2. Very few people take a February vacation.

3. Students: You don’t “earn” a February vacation. It is scheduled.

4. Grandma: You have plenty of time to spend with family.

5. Teacher: You need time to regroup? Give me a freaking break. There are so many breaks in the school year I can’t even count them. We start school in August and then we’re off for Labor Day; Memorial Day; Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. School starts again on January 2nd or 3rd; and barely 5 weeks later, another flipping break in February. Add in all the half days for development and write off the last month of school when there is virtually no teaching going on…come on. Get real.

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on February 14, 2013  9:55pm

I know that bashing Mayo and other NH administrators seems to be the “cool” thing to do around here, but I’d like to point your attention to the following:

“The state commissioner of education declined to give New Haven permission to waive the 180-day rule, according to Will Clark, the city’s chief operating officer.”

I’m curious to know when Pryor denied this request and whether that denial came before the initial remark that the break would remain intact.

I guess the bigger question is “now what?” Will teachers return to school next week disgruntled, or will they greet students with the respect they deserve? Will parents send their students to school, or opt to carry out their original plans? Will students make the most of their time in school, or sit in class and sulk. Free will is truly a great thing

posted by: beyonddiscussion on February 14, 2013  10:54pm

One of the basics of common sense and decency is to give people ample notice. Of course, using April vacation or days at the end of the year was preferable to springing this on folks at the last moment. This is frankly rude and inconsiderate. It’s exactly the kind of behavior we don’t want or expect from our kids. This also shows yet again why we need at least a partially elected Bd. of Ed. We need more accountability and attempt to reach community consensus.

posted by: HhE on February 14, 2013  10:55pm

Quick show of hands, how many of you posters are teachers, or have been teachers?  I don’t think I see Noteworthy’s or new havener’s.  Teaching is a very intense type of work, that’s why we have breaks.  Try subbing for a few days; you’ll get minimum wage, and an education.

My family always took a February vacation, April was optional. 

Upper Middle families can afford to lose a thousand dollars or two on a canceled vacation.  It is the lower middle class teachers that cannot. 

What really fails to impress me is how a contingency plan was not developed some time ago.  Many districts have a policy that snow days after a certain point will be taken from April vacation.  Everyone knows this, and can plan (/risk manage) accordingly.


Rich Therrn’s attendance data lacks a standard reference, and so is of limited utility.  (Is the 14% absent rate he references well above the norm, or typical for any winter’s day?)

posted by: gigi on February 15, 2013  12:14am

There is no other profession outside of academia that enjoys as many days off during the year. While I agree that the way the decision was made was poor…planning was poor…R NHPS teachers saying they plan to take out their frustration on children (who are blameless) next week with poor attitudes and an unwillingness to execute their duties?  As a former teacher who now works in a childcare center (where we are not babysitting btw) I have the vantage point of knowing how drained you get from being in the classroom all day AND seeing how parents scramble to cobble together care on the days when the schls are closed.  This week we fielded a stream of frantic calls from parents desperate for help (that we could not offer because of the way we are structured to operate) as they contemplated another missed week of schl.  This situation highlights how schls in it’s current form is not working for anyone (not teachers, parents and most of all, children).  Yes, I would be livid if I found myself in these teacher’s position. HOWEVER, is the position of NHPS teachers that the better solution would be for 100% of students miss two weeks of school and 100% of NHPS parents find alternative care for two weeks (on equally short notice) vs. shielding 20-30% of teachers (and I am being very generous here) from possible financial harm (which if THEY had planned properly would be covered by traveler’s insurance).  This is a curious and sad position for NHPS teachers to take given CT’s achievement gap and I would venture to say will only serve to further erode the public’s view of our profession.  Given this tumult, I would say going forward the BOE should scrap Feb vacation, add the 5 days at the end of the school year as snow days and deduct as needed.

posted by: RichTherrn on February 15, 2013  6:16am

@hHe, any NHPS teachers should have access to attendance through SchoolNet,
but I can give you some data to compare to the 14% during the Feb break days we had school in 2011. 
During the first week of Feb last year and this year, attendance per day ranged between 6% and 9% absent (both excused and not excused). Of course, it varies widely from school to school… one commenter said that 14% is average, but that is high for almost all K-8s, and only 1 or 2 high schools ever reach that.
Across a year, we average 5% absent… winter is higher anyway.. sickness, travel, etc.. and winter is the time we we get the most students transferring in and out of schools as well, especially in certain areas.
RichTherrn
NHPS Science Supervisor

posted by: Teacher in New Haven on February 15, 2013  7:37am

Wow, teachers don’t come off very well in this comments section.

I for one will be at work next week.  I will teach my kids.  I will teach other people’s kids (even if teachers chose to travel rather than teach).  I will use the 5 days between Mayo’s announcement and our return to school to get my bearings.

Education will take place next week, at least as far as I am concerned, and anyone who says otherwise is displaying a shocking disrespect for teachers and for students. 

We needed a break…  We had one… its time to get back to work.

posted by: Kaffy on February 15, 2013  8:29am

@new haven tchr I don’t think New Haven teachers come off badly here just frustrated as well they should be.  I also don’t know a single one that will take said frustration out on our children or not put in their best effort in educating the children.  I am getting my bearings and have also been at work preparing for the unexpected work week and let me add I have not been alone! Quit adding to the vilifying of teachers. We are hard working professionals who deserve, but rarely get some respect. R E S P E C T find out what it means to me…. Everybody sing!

posted by: streever on February 15, 2013  9:24am

@ELMCITYPROF

“Monday Morning Quarterbacking” is the wrong term to use here. That is only applicable to long and drawn out thinking about snap decisions. If this WAS a snap decision, then it was bungled from the first second, because Mayo had plenty of time to discuss and think about this at length. His final decision is ABSOLUTELY open to criticism and it is ridiculous that anyone would try to dismiss that.

Of course we bash Mayo. The man is a career politician performing a non-political job.

That he has only 2 days planned for storm disruptions in New England (especially after the last 3 years) is ridiculous.

Where is the proactive plan for next year?

Have you checked with other school systems in CT? There are many of them which aren’t in this same bind, because they actually have days alloted for snow days!

They have proactively planned.

Seriously, why is there a small core of New Havenites who are totally OK with the complete lack of long-term plans and sensible foresight in our city government?

Yes, the rest of us come of as “haters” because this stuff is ELEMENTARY. This stuff is part of ANY reasonably run company, township, city, state, or government.

This stuff is not insane. We aren’t asking Mayo to see the future. We’re asking him to do something clearly beyond his abilities, but well within the abilities of anyone who should be in his job.

This city is incapable of doing proper employee evaluations, discipline, scheduling, and who knows what else. Of course we’re bashing the people who lead it. These are necessary skills.

posted by: CreatingUrgency on February 15, 2013  9:45am

Weird how no one (or very few) complains about the loss of learning due to the overwhelming testing season(s).

Two weeks in March are disrupted at the secondary level. God knows how long is disrupted during CMTs. Two weeks are disrupted in May (AP exams).

Just weird.

posted by: Madeline17 on February 15, 2013  12:46pm

I must say, I am really tired of non-educators complaining about the “amount of time” teachers have off.  If you really knew about the teaching profession you would understand that our work day/work week does not end when we leave the school building.  The time that we are physically in the building is only a part of our job.  Additionally, our salaries are based on the months that we are in school.  We can have our pay spread out over 12 months, but we are paid as 10-month employees.  Most educators I know, work during the summer and during other vacation weeks to make up that gap in pay.  We also spend a lot of money supplies and extras for our students and classrooms.  Lastly, anyone of you could have become a teacher if it is so easy to get there and so easy a job to do.  Any one of you could have $315 a month is student loans over the next 40 years, or be considering taking in a renter to help make ends meet.  You could go 5 hours without a break, run to the bathroom, and suck down a granola bar before you spend 20 minutes unjamming the copier and running to your next class, and then go to a staff meeting where you are yelled at for being ineffective.  I work with glorious young people, whom I love and inspire every day. And they inspire me and fill me with hope.  I work with an intelligent, hard-working, funny staff who support me and always give the best of themselves to their students.  I really do.  So cut it out people.  Give us the respect we deserve.  Support us.  Help us.  Do the best you can at parenting your children and at your chosen professions.  Quit complaining about something you don’t really know about.  It’s tiresome.

posted by: Kathy B on February 15, 2013  12:57pm

As evidenced by everyone’s inability offer a sound resolution, this is a no-win situation. Some had plans, and some confirmed or made plans following a statement that the vacation would be untouched. Unfortunately, that decision was reversed. It is what it is. If you have plans(teachers and students), enjoy! Like the majority of my colleagues, I will be at work, doing what needs to be done, to ensure that students are learning. What I do question is whether or not staffing was considered when the decision was made to reopen next week? (We struggle with coverage in any given week.) We are facing a very challenging week next week, but rest assured we will not allow those challenges to hinder the best interest of the students. Numbers in the classrooms may increase for the week, and lesson plans will absolutely (and necessarily) be modified to include them all; but not one teacher I know will simply “show up” and babysit. Our profession is sadly misunderstood and often disrespected. If anyone has any free time next week, I suggest you visit your child’s classroom and see exactly what happens there. I’m sure the extra set of eyes and hands would be most welcome!
Again, I say (with just a little envy), if you have plans next week, ENJOY!! If not, see you on Tuesday!

posted by: NewHavenTeacherMom on February 15, 2013  1:39pm

A few points…..teachers are not 10 month employees. We are contracted to teach however many DAYS the school year runs. Our only “paid” holidays are the Federals. I’m sure there are teachers who watch the clock and bolt as soon as the contract says they can. I don’t know too many of them. If it seems we have entire afternoons at our leisure I can assure you we’re working at home. Long, long, long hours. I have spent thousands of hours working at home, often watching my own children do their homework without access to my help because there isn’t enough time to help them while I help my students. We aren’t in it for the money. But no one believes it. Oh how I wish we could tell what it’s really like without fear of retribution.

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on February 15, 2013  1:58pm

Streever I’m not sure why you took my comment as some personal affront or as some suggestion that I have “accepted” politics as usual. My point,  which seemed to elude you, is that none of these decisions happen in isolation. The confluence of teachers contracts, state mandates, and district guidelines complicates the process. As for quarterbacking, not quite. My concern is with how we might handle these things in the future. Climate change will certainly endure beyond Mayo’s tenure as Superintendent.  Is it time to revisit the 180 day policy, build in more weather days, give less deference to the district, etc?

posted by: new havener on February 15, 2013  2:22pm

Madeline17, you should join a union, then you’ll get improved work conditions. What you described is horrible. Where is my favorite fraction when I need him???  Uhhhh, should I take $68k over 10 months, or 12??? yeeesh.

posted by: Madeline17 on February 15, 2013  2:37pm

@ NHTM - Yes, and the school year runs over 10 months.  If we were to work over the summer, in addition to those 10 months, our salary would need to reflect that. Sorry if I misspoke.

@  new havener - I make less than $68 thou per year, and I live in the City, by choice, so that I am part of the community in which my students live.  I am struggling to make ends meet on my salary with NH taxes and other expenses.  You don’t have to believe me.

posted by: Curious on February 15, 2013  3:50pm

NewHavenTeacherMom, why can’t you talk about what you’re alluding to anonymously?  Or if you don’t want to talk about it here, get in touch with editor Paul Bass for a whistleblowing session.  Maybe you can even get a few fellow teachers together and do an exposé.

posted by: carpediem on February 15, 2013  8:02pm

It is likely that a number of teachers will not be there for the four school days next week. So, a major challenge will be to have enough people to serve as substitutes. If there are not enough, teachers should not be asked to use preparation time to cover for missing teachers. Instead, all certified staff should pitch in: principals, assistant principals, and subject supervisors and other leaders from Meadow Street, including Dr. Mayo and Garth Harries. This could be a public relations win/win, and we all could learn something from it. Let’s show everyone (parents, students, and staff) that we are in this together. Enough division. Let’s unite.

posted by: RichTherrn on February 16, 2013  8:44am

As noted in Friday’s release here in the Independent, facebook, and on nhps.net ” Schools will be fully staffed next week with Central Office and itinerant administrators filling in where needed. This week will be a regular week in terms of academic rigor in the classroom and focus on instruction.”
We (CO) often are in schools to support and help in times of crisis, it is part of the job, and doesn’t get publicized. I have already helped a few teachers with lesson plans, and will be helping more. We already have planned assignments to be at specific buildings based on needs to help principals and teachers.
-Richard Therrien
-NHPS Science Supervisor

posted by: gigi on February 16, 2013  10:11am

Madeline17

What the public is reacting to is the cognitive dissonance of teachers who are petitioning for the BOE to restore their week-long vacation which will result in a two week disruption in education for some of CT neediest children while proclaiming that they put children first.  I have been teaching for over 20 years and yes, it is hard and often times thankless work. But I imagine that can be said by a postal or retail worker, a home help or nurse’s aid, all of whom had to shovel out AND get back to work the day after the storm.  All of which represents the professions of many of our parents. 

I will give your advice back to you Madeline17.  If this profession demands too much of you physically, mentally and financially - stop complaining, move aside and let someone who is not too tired, frustrated or financially stressed take your post.  Otherwise let us adopt the attitude of URBAN ED, KATHY B and NEWHAVENTEACHER and get back to work for the children of New Haven.

posted by: LoveToTeach on February 16, 2013  11:35am

Madeline17…I have wanted a teaching job in New Haven for over 5 years - I wish I could be in your position.  I haven’t gotten a job because I would be too high on the pay scale and I have also expressed my willingness to accept the same salary as every other first year teacher (yet, that couldn’t be done either because of union guidelines).  It is very disappointing to read the negative comments of teachers when I would give anything to have my own classroom.  Kathy B. and Urban Ed - it is great to see your positive attitudes.

posted by: carpediem on February 16, 2013  4:01pm

Gigi, how do you know that Natalie17 was talking about herself and not about other teachers’ experiences? I read your comments as a personal attack, over the line in my view.

posted by: streever on February 16, 2013  5:55pm

@ElmCityProf
So, in your defense of NHPS, you think it is okay that we are one of the few school districts in the entire state that plans for 2—2—lost days a year?

Where other school districts plan for 7-9, we plan for 2.

We have had the same leadership for nearly 20 years and some of the worst drop-out rates in the entire state.

Yes, we are currently seeing (modest) improvement, but the current improvement does not bring us above where we were before years of failed leadership.

In general, New Haven is a city in which the leadership lacks vision and responsibility. While we lose PILOT funding every year, it is a “surprise” each time—we have no cohesive plan for how to handle a reduction in PILOT funding.

We have no cohesive long-term plans for improving our city streets.

We have no cohesive long-term plans for adapting our zoning practices to the modern standards.

We have no cohesive long-term plans for addressing climate change, weather, or snow.

We have no cohesive long-term plans for our Fire Department or Police Department or pension funds.

Every single issue is a case by case issue, because this city is run by a very small circle of people who have one objective: control everything.

As such, they can not allow anyone else to have an idea which makes it forward, because that removes them from control. Even if a plan is clearly bad, they maintain it.

posted by: Madeline17 on February 16, 2013  6:40pm

Dear gigi and love to teach - Never did any of my comments suggest that I do not enjoy my teaching position, or that I am not mentally or physically fit to handle my position.  Nor did I complain, say I was frustrated, or state anything negative.  I was simply commenting that I do not agree with Dr. Mayo’s decision and explaining why I did not agree with it.  Additionally, I was responding to individuals who relentlessly comment negatively about the teaching profession when they do not have first-hand experience with it, and I provided examples as to why the job has as many other stressful aspects as any other job. Your comments are off-base, out of line and offensive.  Frankly gigi, I described my interactions as inspirational and hopeful.  It is you who described the job as “often times thankless.”  So you tell me, which of us needs to examine if we are in the right line of work?
 
BTW - what subject do you teach?  “All of which represents the professions of many of our parents.”  That sentence should read - All of which represent the professions of many of our students’ parents.”  And, love to teach, ` Perhaps, if you are on a high pay scale and have offered to take a first-year salary and still haven’t been hired, it is not the salary keeping you from getting hired. Just sayin’

posted by: gigi on February 16, 2013  9:46pm

Madeline17

First of all, thank you for the grammar lesson. I strongly believe that every moment is an opportunity to teach and to learn. 

As for my comments being over the line…

I AM SORRY…that CT has the widest achievement gap in the nation. 

I AM SORRY…that 60% of New Haven’s children in grades 3 thru 8 are below grade level in reading, writing and math. 

I AM SORRY…that 94% of 3rd graders at Columbus Family Academy are reading below grade level.

And above all…

I AM SORRY…that the crux of this article was not how teachers rallied behind the BOE’s decision (as flawed as the process was) to cancel vacation in recognition of the importance of getting New Haven’s children back to school.

posted by: TeachNH52 on February 16, 2013  10:59pm

The union will not allow someone to be hired on a lower step than they qualify for - so lovetoteach could have said he/she would accept being hired at a lower step but it wouldn’t do him/her any good.  It’s very likely that is why he/she would not be hired, especially with the budget issues.

posted by: Madeline17 on February 17, 2013  11:43am

Dear TeachNH52 - I believe that if a school or school system admin feels a candidate is exceptional he/she/they will find a way to hire that candidate, regardless of pay scale.  This has been proven in my school as recently as this current academic year.

Dear gigi - Wow - you have really turned my comments, which were intended to ask the public for the support educators need, into something entirely different.  I am well aware of the issues surrounding public education, esp. in New Haven, which is why I am a positive, dedicated, solution-oriented teacher.  I do continue to believe that it takes more than teachers to raise a child, and that everyone deserves a functional and healthy teaching and learning environment.  Again, though I agree that the students need to be in the classroom as much as possible, I do not believe this particular week is the best time to make up these days.  I believe April, or the end of the year would have served everyone better.  Lastly, I will underline my original point in my 2nd post, that if the teacher hater(s) feel the profession is such a cake walk he/she is welcome to join the profession.  It is only after first-hand experience that he/she would be qualified to comment in that regard.

posted by: gigi on February 17, 2013  10:33pm

Madeline17

Let me restate, I believe the BOE managed this process poorly.  However, I assume that after Dr. Mayo made his statement publicly, he received wise council that advised:

1.Children cannot miss two week of school, esp. before testing.

2.We may still have to dip into April’s vacation, because even with Feb vacation cancelled, we still need to make up 4 days.

3.What happens if we scrap April vacation, add 4 days to the end of the year and we have additional snow days.  That will result in an even longer school year.

4.It will not be good for teachers to have to work straight from March thru June without some sort of break in April, esp. if we have an extended school year.

THEIR OPTION: Scrap Feb vacation and deal with the fall out.

BETTER OPTION:  Scrap Feb vacation. Make a public statement explaining their rationale, so that teachers like you are not left to feel that their interests or well-being are never a factor when making decisions.  Commit to a process to bring parents and teachers together to reexamine the school year calendar.  Rally the troops (which will have less malcontents once people see the big picture) and get to work for the children of New Haven.

posted by: urban ed on February 18, 2013  10:41am

Now I’m thouroughly confused.The city has closed the EOC and declared plowing complete, yet a cursory look at SeeClickFix reveals vast numbers of remaining one-lane roads, covered sidewalks, and piles at intersections…jibing with my own observations in my own neighborhood. Much was made last week about making the streets safe for schoolkids. It seems that this has not been done. I really wonder what the opening of school will look like tomorrow.

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