NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Students will get a full two weeks off for Christmas at the end of the year — but they'll have to make the extra two days off up elsewhere.
The School Committee earlier this month approved a 2019-20 calendar that schedules a holiday vacation that runs from Dec. 23, 2019, to Jan. 3, 2020.
The extra days are a result of how the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays fall in the middle of the week.
"We had two versions of the calendar, as is the practice in North Adams, presented to the North Adams Teachers Association, and we had a vote and this calendar was overwhelmingly approved," said Superintendent Barbara Malkas at the meeting on March 5. She added the time off is similar to what other school districts are doing.
Two additional days have been added because the second week would have meant students coming back for Thursday and Friday after the New Year. Attendance tends to be very low on end-of-the-week days following a holiday.
"In order to make that work, Good Friday will be a work day and we're only adding one additional day at the end fo the year," she said. "This only rolls around every five or six years, so this year and next year are the years where this can be an option for two full weeks off."
There are union contracts that have Good Friday (April 19), as a holiday and Malkas said officials have reached out to those unions. One has language that would make it a floating holiday and other two are bargaining units that have agreed to consider it during negotiations this spring.
"Everyone will be OK, no one's losing any holiday pay by adopting this calendar," she said.
The committee also reviewed where the superintendent is on her 2019 performance goals. Malkas said this is a midpoint review and that she would be covering this with faculty as well.
She said the district data team has been meeting regularly though the have been some difficulties in scheduling because of school closures and partial closures for weather.
There have been opportunities through grants related to the district's turnaround plan for announced and unannounced classroom observations. Malkas said she recently did a few unannounced observations and would be debriefing principals on those.
"I feel that the district leader team has done an outstanding job working collaboratively to ensure that our in-district professional development opportunities are aligned to our goals and specifically to our outcomes for our students," she said. "We've had the analysis of the new accountability system data and continue to work on that ... we just received our improvement targets so thinking about how those improvement targets impact our accountability."
The school district has been in "turnaround" because of flat or low Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System proficiency scores, absenteeism and low graduation rates. The administration's action plan includes working with data assessments to target students who are having difficulty advancing and working collaboratively to institute shared goals and strategies. Administrators hope this will create a more consistent and comprehensive support system across schools and grades.
Malkas said administrators received the first year of data and that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education wanted them to have the first look to determine trends and patterns and "then use it to inform our district and school improvement strategy."
"I think we could provide you with a report that talks to the data as opposed to giving you the actual data," she told the committee, because the data is not yet publicly released.
The performance practice goal is looking at family support, communication and engagement. Malkas said the district continues to have different events and looks at its partnering opportunities, such as the Safe Routes to Schools grant with Mass in Motion, and ensuring the school system's website is informative and user friendly. The Welcome and Resource Center works on messaging such as parent newsletters and methods for direct parent contact like ClassDojo.com.
Central Office is also in the process of moving into the second-floor at City Hall that Malkas said will allow the school system to "position some key staff members" in an office there for centralized registration.
Mayor Thomas Bernard, chairman of the School Committee, asked if there is engagement back from parents. She said she was hearing more back from teachers using ClassDoJo at the elementary level.
The district improvement goal is to create a shared aspiration and commitment to high expectations for all students and the main method is to participate in improvement strategies. The next step is to roll out a strategic plan and develop professional performance goals for next year.
"We've done the bulk of the work, we've revised our strategic objectives, developed our new initiatives ... We're at the place where we really need to prioritize and develop our targets for success," Malkas said.
The system has also completed its self-assessment for the state and is awaiting a draft report.
"I want to make sure we don't lose track of the human factor," said committee member Heather Boulger. "That all of this data work doesn't define our students and doesn't define our educators. That we have well-rounded youth in our school system, we have quality educators in our school system, and we have strong community, civic and social engagement activities.
"It's all in here but sometimes we just get caught up in the data."
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Estate Plans Can Help You Answer Questions About the Future
Submitted by Edward Jones
The word "estate" conjures images of great wealth, which may be one of the reasons so many people don't develop estate plans. After all, they're not rich, so why make the effort? In reality, though, if you have a family, you can probably benefit from estate planning, whatever your asset level. And you may well find that a comprehensive estate plan can help you answer some questions you may find unsettling – or even worrisome.
Here are a few of these questions:
* What will happen to my children? With luck, you (and your co-parent, if you have one) will be alive and well at least until your children reach the age of majority (either 18 or 21, depending on where you live). Nonetheless, you don't want to take any chances, so, as part of your estate plans, you may want to name a guardian to take care of your children if you are not around. You also might want to name a conservator – sometimes called a "guardian of the estate" – to manage any assets your minor children might inherit.
* Will there be a fight over my assets? Without a solid estate plan in place, your assets could be subject to the time-consuming, expensive – and very public – probate process. During probate, your relatives and creditors can gain access to your records, and possibly even challenge your will. But with proper planning, you can maintain your privacy. As one possible element of an estate plan, a living trust allows your property to avoid probate and pass quickly to the beneficiaries you have named.
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