The San Ramon Valley school board learned new details Tuesday about an early draft calendar for the 2016-17 school year that would differ from the district's typical schedule so the first semester would finish before winter break instead of several weeks after.
"I truly believe it's in the best interest of students," school board president Denise Jennison said during the 25-minute discussion Tuesday evening in Danville.
The district's calendar change conversation began about two years ago, leading to the formation of a stakeholder exploratory committee last spring, according to CJ Cammack, assistant superintendent of human resources.
The potential benefits of completing the first semester before winter break include more effective instruction and learning as well as improved social and emotional health for students, Cammack said. Some members of the local high school community and neighboring districts have expressed support for the change, he added.
The calendar committee has now developed a draft schedule as a starting point for public, community and employee review.
"What the committee reached was a consensus that this was a place where we could go out and seek continued feedback from our community, from our stakeholders. And this was a place where we could sit down with our bargaining units," Cammack said. "This gives us a context for the conversation. This gives us specifics to discuss."
The early draft 2016-17 calendar would start school on Aug. 15, 2016 and end the first semester on Dec. 21, 2016. The second semester would begin Jan. 9, 2017 and finish June 1, 2017.
This year's calendar, as well as the one already approved for next school year, have all schools start on the final full week of August and schedules them to finish up on the second Thursday of June. The first semester ends on the fourth Friday in January.
The draft calendar sets spring break as April 3-7, 2017. It includes other suggested changes, such as holding school the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving and creating a break the Friday and Monday of Halloween weekend.
Those adjustments, and most others, are subject to continued public review and discussion at the bargaining table with employee unions, according to Cammack.
The number of instructional days -- 180 total -- would remain the same as preceding years, but board member Ken Mintz noted that as drafted, the calendar has 10 fewer instructional days in the first semester than in the second.
Cammack said some districts do have uneven semesters, pointing out that Advanced Placement (AP) and state testing -- which cut into instructional time -- would occur in the second semester.
Middle schools and high schools are on a semester system while elementary schools are on a trimester system. The draft calendar does not specify on what days to end the first trimester in November 2016 and the second trimester in March 2017.
Cammack also detailed some results of public surveys conducted earlier this year on the calendar issue.
More than 71% of district staff, parents and community members who responded to the survey said they were in favor of ending the first semester before winter break. About 15% supported after winter break and nearly 14% indicated no preference.
Results were similar from student survey-takers, with almost 71% for before winter break, 17% for after and about 12% with no preference.
The two surveys were taken under consideration by the calendar committee, which consists of district staff, a board member, parents, a student, union representatives, city and town officials, the special education community and parent-teacher association (PTA) reps, according to Cammack.
No members of the public spoke during the calendar discussion Tuesday night.
District officials have not announced a specific timetable for a final calendar decision, but Cammack said he hopes to bring the item back to the board before November -- which is typically when the board would approve the following year's schedule.
In other business
* The school board extended the employment contracts of superintendent Mary Shelton and four members of her cabinet, with 2% salary bumps for each -- the same percentage increase approved for other district employees this year.
The raise, retroactive to July 1, increases Shelton's annual pay this year to $254,592. She will also receive a 5% longevity step increase effective this July -- upping her salary to $267,322 at that time.
"I think that we have a tremendous, rare -- I will tell you, rare -- working relationship with just a brilliant, visionary, strong leader who is taking 32,000 kids and roughly 3,000 employees into the future of education in the lead," Jennison said of Shelton.
The other pay bumps, also retroactive to July 1, apply to Cammack ($195,868), assistant superintendent of facilities and operations Gary Black ($215,943), assistant superintendent of educational services Toni Taylor ($195,868) and chief business officer Scott Anderson ($195,868).
"I can think of no four better people to work with as a board," Jennison said.
The board earlier this year endorsed 2% salary increases for its service workers, management, confidential supervisory employees and members of the teachers union. Bargaining talks are reportedly ongoing with the remaining classified union, the California School Employees Association.
* Anderson provided board members an overview of costs associated with the recent sales of $125 million in Measure D general obligation bonds. The transaction, marking the second series of Measure D bond sales, closed April 23.
The cost of issuing this set of bonds came in at $600,330.40, almost $34,700 below the initial estimate. That price represented 0.48% of the sale amount, a percentage Anderson said was "reasonable and below average" for bond sales of that size in California.
The sale expenses included underwriter, financial adviser and bond counsel services as well as rating agency fees and printing costs.
* The district's special education community advisory committee presented its Bright Light awards.
The five school site recipients were Kathleen Martins (sixth-grade teacher, Charlotte Wood Middle School), Mimi Quan (principal, Quail Run Elementary), Leigh Gregory (school psychologist, Live Oak and Green Valley elementary schools), Karen Rush (paraeducator, Golden View Elementary) and Karen Macaulay (special education teacher, Stone Valley Middle School).
The committee also presented an award to Judith Cameron, the district's outgoing special education local plan area (SELPA) executive director.
* In closed session, board members voted unanimously to appoint Jean Anthony as the new SELPA executive director effective in July. Anthony is currently special education executive director for Bellevue School District in Washington.
They also appointed three high school assistant principals: Dearborn Ramos (San Ramon Valley), Megan Keefer (Monte Vista) and Stephanie Sawyer (Dougherty Valley).
* The board, voting later on a collection of personnel changes, approved the retirement request of Phyllis Roach, principal of Danville's Los Cerros Middle School.
* Christine Huajardo, principal of Golden View Elementary in San Ramon, led a 15-minute presentation about recent programs and activities at her campus.