Wellsville BOE stays with current calendar

WELLSVILLE – By virtue of a split vote on Thursday evening, the Wellsville Local Board of Education will stay with the current calendar and more school days in June to make up for its nine calamity days taken this winter.

During a special meeting held in the office of Superintendent Richard Bereschik, four members of the board registered a 2-2 vote on a revised school year calendar, with board President Ed Bauer absent and excused. Board policy states that tie votes result in an automatic defeat.

In the existing 2013-14 school calendar, students and teachers have Friday, April 18, through Wednesday, April 23, off for Easter break. A proposal approved by members of the Wellsville Teachers Association would have seen schools open for class on April 21-23 toward making up the calamity day overage. The fourth day would have been made up on Friday, June 6, one day after the last school day on the district calendar.

“This vote is not about pleasing everyone. We know that is impossible. This vote is about what is best for our students and the message that you want sent,” said WTA President Mary Ann Phillips in a prepared statement.

There was disagreement about where plans for the revised calendar had originated. After the meeting, Brophey said that the WTA leadership had approached Bereschik with the revisions in mind. According to Phillips, however, it was the superintendent who proposed the plan. “Mr. Bereschik approached me about it,” she said.

Phillips said the change was presented to union leadership as a way of folding the makeup days into the middle of the school year, when the students are still in more of a learning mindset, rather than attaching them to the end of the school year, when their concentration will more likely be focused on their delayed summer vacation.

Board member Tom Brophey, who served as president pro tempore at the meeting, says WTA members should not have been surprised by the outcome, as the school calendar states that any school days not accounted for will be made up at year’s end. “They knew going into this that they had agreed, when they voted in the contract this time last year, to make up any calamity days (if any) at the end of the school year,” he said.

Phillips countered that the contract only stipulates that all missed days must be accounted for and doesn’t specify when they should be made up. “On our calendar, we’ve just always said [to] make up at the end of the year,” she said.

District-wide, the vote among teachers was 68 percent in favor of the revised calendar, 32 against. The plan received the bulk of its support from teachers at Garfield Elementary School and Daw Middle School, who voted 82 percent and 89 percent in favor, respectively. Teachers were less keen on the revisions at the high school, where it received only 32 percent of support. In a vote of all district employees, including administration and classified employees, the calendar update won with a slender 51-percent majority.

Brophey pointed out that the Easter break incursion was the sole plan proposed to district workers, with no other alternatives presented. “They were only given one option to vote on,” he said. One such alternative would have shortened the break to Good Friday and Easter Monday, with school in session on Tuesday and Wednesday and the other two days added to the end of the school year.

Phillips expressed disappointment following the meeting, stressing that the official revised calendar had been approved not only by a majority of WTA members, but also by a majority of employees district-wide, including administration and unclassified workers. She did note that while the calendar is created in consultation with the WTA, the board does have the authority to amend it unilaterally. “It was kind of a courtesy, I guess, to come to us and ask us,” she said.

The district exhausted its state allotment of five calamity days, plus four more, so far this school year as a result of excessively cold and snowy weather over the winter months. Recent revisions to the state’s calamity day policy in Columbus yielded no relief for Wellsville Schools.

Under the plan, Ohio school districts receive four so-called “contingency” days on top of the five allotted calamity days. These contingency days can only be taken if four days have already been made up, however, and with exactly four days to make up, the Wellsville district does not qualify.