NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The North Adams Public Schools haven't completed this year but it does know when the next school year will begin.
The School Committee on Tuesday approved a school calendar for 2018-19 that begins after the Labory Day weekend, with a Sept. 4 start for kindergarten through Grade 8 and Sept. 5 for Grades 9-12. Drury High School graduation is June 6 and the last school day on Friday, June 21.
Teachers will start on Aug. 30 and 31 for professional development; the year will also have seven half-days, including the traditional Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving.
Superintendent Barbara Malkas said this model has two more half-days rather than a full-day professional development day because of issues with salary scheduling for some part-timers. They were placed in March since it was one of the few months without a holiday or break.
"This is a long month ... we found that was just a good opportunity to have built-in breaks for our students and staff," she said.
In other business, Malkas also reported on the school district's participation in the state's educator equity plans.
"The goal was to provide equitable access to high-quality educators for subgroup populations such as our economically disadvantaged students or students with disabilities and our English language learners, and students of color," she said.
The data the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education collected showed that students in high-poverty areas were more likely to have inexperienced teachers or teachers with unsatisfactory or needs improvement ratings.
According to DESE, students in high poverty schools were three times more likely to have teachers with "ineffective" evaluations and, on average, twice as many inexperienced teachers (teachers with less than three years in the classroom). Schools with high minority populations also had more than eight times as many teachers teaching outside of their subjects, compared to low minority schools.
"The data was compelling enough for them to say we're going to actually aggregate this data by district and by school so that individual districts and schools can review their own data," Malkas said.
"An initial review of the data shows we're in pretty good stead in most areas but when we broke it down into individual schools, certain schools will need to address the equity plan issues as we go forward in developing district improvement strategies for next year."
The state's developed a risk ratio to compare student subgroups to teachers, based on areas such as use of long-term substitutes, absenteeism and professional status. DESE has set a benchmark of 1.5 — schools over that mark will have to submit a plan on how they will address equity concerns.
Malkas said this data being shared by the state will be useful and that the school district will now be able to track absenteeism in real time. "A teacher may be a great educator, but if they're out a lot then the students aren't getting the benefit of their instruction," she said.
The data will be shared with the School Committee after adminstrators take several trainings; Malkas said the state wants to be sure they understand the information before sharing it.
The committee also approved the final agreement with the Northern Berkshire School Union to share the services of Carrie Burnett as business administrator. There were some modifications to the original draft, said Mayor Thomas Bernard, that were hammered about when he and Malkas met with the union's subcommittee.
Among the changes are title (business administrator rather than manager), a change in the salary for this year to denote the later adoption of the contract, and that Burnett will be on the city's insurance, rather than North Adams paying the school union for it. The language also makes clear that the Burnett answers to the two entities only for the responsibilities she as for each.
The decision to share services came after the city had difficulty finding a replacement for longtime manager Nancy Ziter, who retired at the end of last year. The Northern Berkshire School Union is expected to approve the contract on Thursday.
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