News

School board adopts calendar change

2016-17 instructional schedule ends first semester before winter break

San Ramon Valley schools will end their first semester before winter break starting next school year after the school board Tuesday unanimously approved the 2016-17 instructional calendar that implements the schedule shift for the first time in the district.

Board members, like many calendar-change supporters, said they thought finishing the first semester and final exams before winter break would create a true break for students around the winter holidays, free from stresses associated with studying and projects.

"I think (the new calendar) will help to alleviate some of the stress that our kids feel," board president Greg Marvel said just before the vote Tuesday night at the district boardrooms in Danville.

"I am part of a group that I truly feel is giving my daughter, and sooner or later my son when he gets to high school, a gift that I did not have (when attending San Ramon Valley High School)," board vice president Mark Jewett said. "I firmly believe I've given ... our kids a gift."

The adopted 2016-17 instructional calendar, which was also endorsed by all district employee unions, starts school on Aug. 15 and end the first semester on Dec. 21, 2016. The second semester begins Jan. 9, 2017, and finishes June 1, 2017.

That schedule differs from the district's traditional calendar like this year's, which had all schools start on the final full week of August and finish up on the second Thursday of June. The first semester ends on the fourth Friday in January.

In addition to stress reduction, some board members and other supporters cited other positives such as creating more instructional time before May's Advanced Placement (AP) exams and better aligning high schoolers' schedule with college calendars.

The calendar-change debate also drew vocal detractors who expressed concerns about factors such as starting the year earlier in the summer, rushing to finish the first semester amid December holidays, a lack of data showing the adjustments would actually reduce student stress and the transparency of the district's calendar-review process.

The board heard from seven citizen speakers -- five supporters of the proposed calendar and two opponents -- during a 50-minute public hearing Tuesday night, about half as long as the roughly two-hour board discussion in October during which board members indicated initial support for the calendar change concept and directed district staff to negotiate the topic with employee unions.

The San Ramon Valley Education Association (SRVEA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and California School Employees Association (CSEA) bargaining units each endorsed the 2016-17 calendar with the first-semester shift.

The district's middle schools and high schools are on a semester system while elementary schools are on a trimester system. The calendar ends the first trimester on Nov. 10 and ends the second trimester on March 2, 2017.

All district schools, regardless of semester or trimester systems, start and end the school year on the same day and have the same vacation and holiday breaks.

Nearly 100 people packed the boardrooms Tuesday night, and the vast majority were local teachers donning red clothing in support of their union.

SRVEA president Ann Katzburg addressed the school board at the beginning of the meeting advocating for salary increases for teachers.

"When times were lean, we did not ask for an increase in salary. We are partners," Katzburg told the board during public comment on non-agenda items. "I'm seeing a loss in spirit, and I'm fearful that without recognition, our members will begin to burn out. We need to fill our spirits. We do need restoration."

Marvel said the board could not dialogue about the salary issue because the item was not listed on the meeting agenda.

But he added, "We hear you. We understand, and we're hoping that a settlement can be reached fairly quickly that honors the great work that you all do -- teachers, classified and administrators -- that make this, frankly, the best school district in California."

Editor's note: Additional coverage of the school board meeting will follow in the coming days.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 16, 2015 at 6:03 am

SRVEA president Ann Katzburg addressed the school board at the beginning of the meeting advocating for salary increases for teachers.

"When times were lean, we did not ask for an increase in salary. We are partners," Katzburg told the board during public comment on non-agenda items. "I'm seeing a loss in spirit, and I'm fearful that without recognition, our members will begin to burn out. We need to fill our spirits. We do need restoration."

I have no doubt they will get that too.


Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 16, 2015 at 6:03 am

SRVEA president Ann Katzburg addressed the school board at the beginning of the meeting advocating for salary increases for teachers.

"When times were lean, we did not ask for an increase in salary. We are partners," Katzburg told the board during public comment on non-agenda items. "I'm seeing a loss in spirit, and I'm fearful that without recognition, our members will begin to burn out. We need to fill our spirits. We do need restoration."

I have no doubt they will get that too.


20 people like this
Posted by DumbDave
a resident of Danville
on Dec 16, 2015 at 6:42 am

What is wrong with a raise for teachers? They have averaged a 1% raise per year for the last 9 years. Not much for dealing with entitled kids.


2 people like this
Posted by Scott Hale
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 16, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Please define 'entitled kids', DumbDave


12 people like this
Posted by Bob M
a resident of Danville
on Dec 16, 2015 at 8:24 pm

Give me a break.
They state that they are changing the calendar so that high school students
don't have to study for finals while on Christmas break.
Check this years schedule, they have two weeks of classes after they come back
from the Christmas break before finals.
I doubt that the average student is studying for finals more than two weeks in advance.
Board President, Greg Marvel wants to eliminate some of the stress the students feel.
Maybe the students should be taught how to handle stress in a healthy way. I hate
to inform him but life's stresses continue after high school; right through college, grad school,
and in the work place and in family life. Being taught how to handle them is kinder than
sheltering someone from them.


5 people like this
Posted by Wally
a resident of Danville
on Dec 16, 2015 at 9:20 pm

This was a total you scratch my back I scratch your back situation. That is most likely how the Board got this approved with the Unions.

At last nights Board Meeting SRVEA said they needed their spirits raised. At the Board meeting on 12/8 CSEA asked for the same thing. They said that they were tasked by the Board to get the calendar approved and that is what they did. The word "push" was used. They did what the Board asked them, so they asked not to be overlooked - they don't feel Valued.

Yes, both deserve a raise and they should get one. There is a lot of hard working people who work in our district.

The calendar committee was also tasked to do one thing to get this calendar approved. They keep on saying that it was worked on for 2 years, if so why wasn't the report released when the proposed calendar was released with the survey results? Why did it take about 5 months for them to release it after there was a lot of opposition? One thing that they failed to mention is - at the begging of this school year the committee invited few additional members for a meeting. At this meeting they asked them what are the pros and cons, and why do people oppose the change. Well that info was used to fill the report. I wouldn't call that 2 years of hard work.

This was a done deal before it even started. It has nothing to do with student stress, which is sad.


Like this comment
Posted by Amy
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on Dec 17, 2015 at 8:03 am

Bob M, you must not have a high schooler.


2 people like this
Posted by Marty
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 17, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Check out the facts. The teachers were fully "restored" after the furlough days as the district paid every dollar back to the teachers. Since then they have received several raises. Does anyone else get tired of the teachers' union claiming they are "losing spirit"? They claim that their members are losing spirit and morale every year despite being amoung the highest paid in the area, serving the most motivated kids, with parents who highly support education. Try teaching in Oakland and then talk about "spirit and morale".


Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Dec 20, 2015 at 12:20 pm

If teacher unions are worried about the morale of teachers, they should start showing some backbone and speaking about Common Core, Race to the Bottom, and all the other iterations being foisted upon our kids. But they and the school district officials don't have any backbone, so I won't hold my breath.

This new calendar was decided long ago, and the questionnaires sent out were just a pretend-to-care ploy. Now every school is trying to align with the idiotic college schedules, where students are out by Memorial Day and back in class roasting in the August heat.


4 people like this
Posted by Karen
a resident of Danville
on Dec 21, 2015 at 7:28 am

Amy, I have two high schoolers who have never had any issues w the "past schedule."

The new schedule does not have the kids' best interests in mind and August is one of the hottest months for them to be sitting in a classroom. The District is robbing our families of the most important and limited opportunities: time to be with family and make memories and traditions.

Remember, the District loses money if a child does not have an excused absence. Maybe the Distrct will hear our voices then?


13 people like this
Posted by Tom
a resident of Alamo
on Dec 23, 2015 at 10:30 am

The concept of moving finals from the end of January to December in order to "reduce student stress" defies logic. Anybody in the mental health field will tell you that December is by far the worst month of the year for suicides, attempted suicides and reported incidents of panic attacks. Putting final exams on top of all that for teenagers is just throwing more fuel on the fire, rather than trying to put it out.

People in the district office keep trying to talk around the issue, but the real issue in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District is the absurd amount of homework that they dole out to their high school students on a regular basis, especially when the subject comes to math. It is a failed methodology that has not resulted in higher STAR scores, higher SAT scores, or higher ACT scores, yet the district continues with this outdated approach that was shown in repeated studies at Duke University to not only fail to improve math proficiency, but actually proven to be counterproductive, as student fatigue resulted in regression on tasks in which they had initially shown progress. This information has now been around for over a decade, yet the San Ramon Valley Unified School District continues with an approach that is both counterproductive academically, as well as psychologically for the students. Instead of simply making this simple change in the amount of homework, they deal with the resulting stress and anxiety issues by holding stress workshops and paying outside consultants like Stanford University to come up with proposals like changing the calendar to fit the ordinary college semester system. Ironically, Stanford does not actually start school until late September, so the families of their students are not cutting short their summer break in early August to go back to school in the very hottest time of the year.

When will our school district ever wake up and just reduce the homework to a reasonable level? It sure would have saved us from all of these other machinations that are supposed to counter the very stress that the school district is unnecessarily creating for its students. I know that they created a new homework policy this past year, but it sure hasn't been implemented in reality at San Ramon Valley High. Absolutely nothing has changed from last year in that respect. In fact, our oldest daughter is more burdened then ever, and all of her friends have said that they are experiencing the same treatment. What good is a policy if it's not enforced? There certainly is a disconnect between the stated policy on paper and what the administration and teachers are carrying out in the classroom. It's up to the School Board to find out how to solve the schools' failure to follow through on the policies that they enact, but this current Board is stuck in the mud like an old jalopy. It's pretty clear that we could use some new blood on the Board. Hopefully, this can be accomplished in coming elections. Hope springs eternal......


Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Dec 23, 2015 at 7:01 pm

I agree with you Tom, and I find it ironic and a but disheartening that danvillesanramon dot com just published a little Common Core cheerleading article by Tom Torlakson. Common Corrupt's endgame is all about education profiteering, and anyone who needs to know how only needs to follow Diane Ravitch's blog.


2 people like this
Posted by Louie
a resident of Danville
on Dec 24, 2015 at 10:14 am

Well stated, Tom.

1. The calendar change was promoted by teachers. It will add more stress to Seniors juggling the college application process.

2. Re: Common Core. Remember "New Math," "Whole Language," and a raft of other end-all and be-all theories that required new text books, learning materials, and additional teacher training? Common Core will fade away. Something newer and costlier will replace it.

3. Torlakson wants to discontinue the high school exit exam as a graduation requirement. Most SRVUSD students PASS that exam in 10th grade. Students who do not pass the exam, the first time it is given, receive tutoring to master basic skills. Some students in lower performing districts cannot pass the exam. Shouldn't all high school diploma recipients be able to demonstrate basic writing and math skills?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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