December 17, 2014

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Keystone divided on school year calendar

David Kish, director of curriculum and instruction for Keystone schools, speaks at the Keystone school board meeting on Monday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

David Kish, director of curriculum and instruction for Keystone schools, speaks at the Keystone school board meeting on Monday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

LAGRANGE — Teachers and parents of students involved in 4-H stood divided on how to conquer new state-mandated tests to be implemented in the 2014-15 school year.

While most teachers favored starting the school year early to get a jump on learning, parents of 4-H members said their children would be punished under a new schedule.

Keystone Schools’ Curriculum Director David Kish proposed starting the school year two days before the Lorain County Fair — scheduled Aug. 18 through 24 — to increase the amount of instructional days leading up to performance-based assessments. Those tests will be given next February, according to Kish.

The proposal would allow students to take two days off — Aug. 18 and 19 — for the fair, and staff would be given one day. There would be no early release days during the period of time leading up to the tests, although staff would be given five professional days.

Many parents and 4-H members in attendance at Monday’s Board of Education meeting were opposed to the idea, however. Some criticized Superintendent Jay Arbaugh for what they called a lack of compromise that was promised at the last school board meeting.

“I was under the impression that there was going to be compromise tonight, and I see no compromise,” said parent Tony Monyak, who said students would get behind by missing class time for the fair.

Many parents and 4-H members attending Monday night's Keystone school board meeting were opposed to a proposal that would allow students to take two days off for the fair.

Many parents and 4-H members attending Monday night’s Keystone school board meeting were opposed to a proposal that would allow students to take two days off for the fair.

Arbaugh said there were limited choices due to collective bargaining agreements with the teachers’ union. The school board will either vote on starting school as usual the Tuesday after the fair or starting two days before the fair, according to the proposals presented Monday night.

Kish stressed the importance of starting early. He said students will require more testing, which requires preparation.

Kindergarten assessments consist of a seven-part test. The new computerized tests in reading and math will be approximately one hour and 30 minutes to two hours long, in addition to the tests that previously were required by the state.

Kish, who is holding a meeting 6:30 p.m. today at the high school to discuss the changes in curriculum, said the testing requirements are so stringent that State Superintendent Richard Ross stated it would cause test scores to fall drastically.

“Our students will be tested so much that it changes the way we look at education,” he said.

Kish added that high school students who don’t pass won’t graduate, and third-grade students would be held back if they fail the reading test.

“That is sad. And if you’re not alarmed by something like that, and that’s not a wake up call, then I don’t know what to tell you, because that is sad,” he said.

Monyak, and other parents in attendance, weren’t convinced that extra school hours were needed, however.

“He’s not prepared. He’s up there scaring the crap out of everybody. You know what all the other districts are saying? They’re prepared. You should have been prepared all along,” Monyak said during a heated moment in the meeting.

Lorain County Fair Board President Kim Meyers implored the school board to keep the regular school schedule, saying that the Lorain County Fair offers important education opportunities for students as well.

Adam Cordy, a senior at Keystone High School and 4-H member, stressed the importance of the program.

“Anything that gets changed will not affect me, however, I am very passionate about 4-H. For many, like myself, (the fair) is the most important week of the year,” he said. “Not everybody does sports. People like me are in 4-H for fun.”

Cordy added that 4-H teaches members responsibility, leadership and the importance of agriculture.

Kristin Zatik, a seventh-grade math teacher at Keystone, said beginning early is important. Zanik, who said she participated in 4-H in school, said she has increased standards to cover in class, and the extra time is valuable.

“The teachers are with you. The teachers and staff are not against you,” she said to parents. “We want what’s best for your students.”

The school board likely will vote on a proposal during its next board meeting Feb. 18, according to board member Renee Mezera.

The calendar will affect more than 12 percent of the student population, which the district estimated is in 4-H, although parent Laura Monyak said the number does not account for many students.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.

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