defeated in Auburn
Auburn News* THE
NEWSPAPER OF EAST ALABAMA*12/16/98
YRS - It's over!
Martin proposes minor
The year-round school debate in Auburn
has been put to rest, but not without some changes to the current school year.
Dr. Mick Martin proposed minor changes
to the Auburn City Schools calendar last night, and the school board
unanimously approved the changes to the current school year, managing to evade
an alternative calendar label.
"I've learned I didn't do some
things very well," Dr. Martin said, evaluating his personal involvement in
the alternative calendar issue.
"My final recommendation is this:
That I recommend against extending the school year or implementing year-round
school," he said.
Dr. Martin cited "too much
divisiveness in our community" as his primary reason for not recommending
an alternative calendar.
"In spite of all our efforts of
four months of probably the most intense debate, 70 percent of parents and
about that number of our community was opposed to the idea," he said.
"You can't sell an idea of this magnitude with that kind of split."
Financial reasons also factored into
the decision, Dr. Martin said.
The board unanimously voted in favor of
Dr. Martin's recommendation.
After the board's approval, Dr. Martin
began a second recommendation pertaining to minor changes in the current
"I'm prepared to recommend a
calendar," he said after his initial recommendation against an alternative
Dr. Martin cited the need to schedule
final exams before the Christmas break and a break for faculty as the
determining factors in making a decision on his proposed calendar.
"The issue here is to conclude the
first semester's work and give staff, students and parents a clean break,"
A one-day break, scheduled for Monday,
Oct. 11, occurs between the first and second grading periods. Dr. Martin said
the extra day was planned to give staff and "those who need a break"
an opportunity to relax before the beginning of the next term.
The apparent need to correlate the
Auburn University and ACS calendar also factored into Dr. Martin's decision.
"The calendar I present matches
the (AU) spring break, day for day, the same time period," he said.
The recommended calendar allows the
fourth nine weeks to end during the fourth week in May, allowing International
Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement students "maximum classroom
instruction prior to national exams.",
He expressed the desire to put the
issue at rest as soon as possible.
"I think closure on this issue is
paramount tonight," Dr. Martin said.
The board unanimously passed the
calendar, which takes effect with the start of the 1999-2000 school year.
Under the calendar, school will begin
Monday, Aug. 16, 1999 and conclude Thursday, May 25, 2000. The calendar has 175
student days and 183 staff days -- the same as the current school year.
Auburn City Schools appointed a
committee earlier this year whose specific function was to study the
alternative calendar issue. The group, comprised of 51 members, met regularly
and participated in ACS alternative calendar survey.
An Auburn citizens' group in opposition
to the implementation of a year-round calendar was formed shortly after the
calendar committee. The citizens' group met regularly and voiced their
resistance to a calendar change through the use of yard signs and radio
Public meetings concerning the
alternative calendar proposal were held at each school within the Auburn school
system during October.
A telephone survey and a written survey
were administered to Auburn residents in November, and results were taken into
consideration by Dr. Martin in making his recommendation .
ACS considered the alternative calendar
option in 1993, and appointed a similar committee to explore and make
recommendations on an alternate school year.
ACS voted against making the transition
to year-round school that same year.
Article: Board stops YRS,
starts new calendar
By: ELIOTT C. MCLAUGHLIN
A standing-room-only crowd packed the
Auburn High School multimedia center Tuesday to hear the long-awaited
superintendent's report on the year-round school issue.
While the calendar is general ly
accepted by the YRS protesters, some have a few problems with the calendar,
including the means in which it was approved.
Auburn City School Superintendent Mick
Martin first allowed Mike Machen of Machen McChesney & Chastain and Gerald
Johnson, director of the Capital Survey Research Center, present the results of
written and telephone polls.
Machen said his accounting agency
collected and counted the written surveys. His results showed that 41.4 percent
of those polled approved a calendar change, 51.5 percent did not and 7.1
percent were non-compliant.
Johnson, who directs the center which
acts as the polling authority for the Alabama Education Association, said the
results of the phone survey differ when broken into demographic categories.
The center completed 667 surveys, of
which, 40 percent said they oppose a change, 50 percent supported it and 10
percent said they did not have enough information. However, these results were
compiled from three different levels of opposition or approval.
Johnson broke down the results for the
board: Those with out children, those of low income and ACS employees showed
pluralities supporting a calendar change.
Professionals, Auburn University
employees and non ACS employees were generally in opposition. Breaking down the
results also showed most of those polled opposed Calendars C and D, but
supported A and B.
In addition, the poll showed that AU
employees and professionals thought it was important final exams were scheduled
before the break and that AU and ACS calendars were compatible.
The room became silent as Martin
prepared to make his recommendation to the board.
"If I have prayed through this
process, I have prayed for wisdom," he said. "I didn't do some things
"I didn't protect my subordinates.
The lightning rod in this should have been me. It's the role of the
"I'm not sure I brought honor to
Martin thanked the staff, board, his
family, students, the media, the committee, the pollsters and even the YRS
naysayers who made their voices heard repeatedly through out the process.
"I'm proud of them. I'm pleased we
have a system that does that for children," Martin said.
His final recommendation? "I
recommend against extending the school year," he said.
He cited divisiveness among the
community, 70 percent of the community being opposed and the proposal not being
financially feasible as reasons for his decision.
He then recommended a calendar in which
finals are finished before the Christmas break, the spring break is congruent
with AU's and advanced students will be able to finish their coursework before
"I think closure on this issue is
paramount tonight," Martin said.
However, some parents were concerned
about the lack of community input sought for the new calendar.
Two leaders in the YRS protest who
wished to remain anonymous said they were generally pleased with the decision.
They just wish they had had a chance to comment on the new calendar.
David Elton, another front-runner in
the fight to stop YRS, said it was "a pretty good recommendation,"
but he felt Martin's calendar mimicked the Calendar A option.
He added that he thought the ACS board
merely offered "lip service for seeking community input.
"The parents of Auburn like to be
heard, but if they can't be heard, they won't be a benefit to anybody.
"I think he should've stuck with
this year's calendar."
Lynda Rainer, ACS public relations
director, said, "We probably got more input from the teachers, citizens
and parents than ever before.
"The board felt so many things had
gotten out of hand, and we needed to have closure.
"You're not going to please
everybody, but you don't want a majority of your parents angry," she said.
As for Martin's proposal being close to
Calendar A, Rainer said, "Calendar A is strikingly similar to the
traditional calendar, too."
She said the surveys showed the
majority wanted the breaks changed as they were.
"He did what was best for all the
children of Auburn," Rainer said.
ACS held a special session Thursday to
address a disciplinary matter of two students caught with marijuana and to
amend the approved calendar.
Auburn News* THE
NEWSPAPER OF EAST ALABAMA*12/17/98
Article: Getting back to the
business of education
Auburn City Schools is get ting on
with business as usual now that the year-round school debate is settled.
The slightly altered calendar passed at
Tuesday night's school board meeting hasn't garnered much public response,
according to ACS officials.
"Today's been quiet,"
Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Freeman .said Wednesday. "It's been
pretty quiet on my end."
Lynda Rainer, Auburn City Schools'
public relations director, said, "Some teachers that I've talked to were
maybe a little disappointed but, once again, it's been really quiet."
However, both officials said one
question has been asked regularly: "Gee, aren't you glad it's over?"
The end of the debate about whether to
change to an alternate calendar allows time for the school system to fully
develop current projects and start new ones within the next year.
"I've heard a good response about
moving the semester," Dr. Freeman said. "That's been positively
Moving semester exams to before the
Christmas break was part of minor changes in the modified traditional school
calendar passed Tuesday night.
ACS will undertake many new projects in
the coming year, and a specific target of the system will be at-risk children.
"One thing that's been obvious is
we all recognize we have at-risk children," Dr. Freeman said. "I
don't think our community was aware we have the number that we have.
"We are going to continue to look
at programs and find out what works," she said.
An area that will continue to receive
emphasis for all students is reading instruction. "We think that's really
important," Dr. Freeman said.
Emphasis in curriculum will be placed
on mathematics and reading, she said.
"We've really started to pick up
in our math curriculum," she said, citing tougher state graduation exam
requirements as reason for more intense curriculum.
Teachers in grades 6-12 math and
English/language arts classes will meet four times this year to prepare for the
new graduation exam.
"We're trying to make sure our
kids are truly prepared for the 21st century," Dr. Freeman said.
Auburn Early Education Center has been
nominated by the state Department of Education to be a national Blue Ribbon
School, and Auburn High School is currently working on its application for the
"That's a pretty significant
honor," Dr. Freeman said.
Construction will remain a top priority
for the school system.
"We want to get Yarbrough
(Elementary) completed," Dr. Freeman said. "Playgrounds are another
initiative we have started."
Permission was requested for bids on
playground equipment at last night's board meeting, she said.
Dr. Freeman added that the money for
playground projects has been budgeted for elementary schools in the system.
The school system generally plans
construction projects 10 years in advance, she said.
ACS has evaluated programs for at-risk
children over the last several years, Dr. Freeman said.
Ms. Rainer said the ACS system is the
state model for at-risk student programs, a fact of which they were not
"We've had other school systems
call us and say, 'You've been referred as the model of the state. We'd like to
see your plan,"' Dr. Freeman said.
ACS has several programs targeted for
Title I, a federally-funded program,
involves math and parent-involvement activities for students who qualify.
Auburn Early Education Center is currently a Title I school, Dr. Freeman said.
Dr. Freeman said the system also
focuses on the social aspects affecting at risk children.
"We use referral to Big
Brother/Big Sister and Department of Human Resources," she said.
"East Alabama Mental Health does some on-site counseling with families for
Dr. Freeman said the system is
specifically looking at student conflict resolution and school safety programs.
Technology in the city's schools has
already advanced this year, with each classroom already receiving two new
computers this school term.
By Friday, each school should be hooked
up to the Internet, Dr. Freeman said.
"We're really excited about ...
really opening up communication for our children and our teachers," Dr.
Freeman said. "We feel like they've been deprived of the Internet."
Teacher training conferences will be
held in January 1999 to familiarize instructors with the Internet, she said.
"For our children, the
possibilities are endless with the things they can do with technology,"
Dr. Freeman said.
Career technical, or vocational,
classes are already in place within the school system.
One of the technical programs currently
offered to students at Auburn High is a multimedia class.
"We have some pretty high-level
video equipment and they're learning different ways to make a video," Ms.
Rainer said. "What makes the program so nice is that we have kids that
have not always been real excited about some of their courses, and this is some
thing they're really excited about.
"Any way you can reach children is
always exciting," she said.
Editorial: Time for community
to work together
After months of divisiveness the
alternative calendar debate has been put to rest in Auburn.
After being bombarded by signs,
letters, e-mails, faxes and calls, Auburn City School's Superintendent Dr. Mick
Martin conceded defeat.
Only minutes after learning his mother
had died, Dr. Martin faced members of the Stop Year Round School in Auburn
group and other residents who attended Tuesday night's school board meeting to
find out whether he would recommend the school board adopt an alternative
The announcement that he would
recommend against adopting an alternative calendar was greeted by applause from
the group, many of whom have spent a large amount of time and money opposing
the proposal in its planning stage.
Dr. Martin rose above the controversy
and cited "too much divisiveness in our community" and the expense of
implementing an alternate calendar schedule as reasons for his decision.
"You can't sell an idea of this
magnitude with that kind of split," Dr. Martin said, stating about 70 per
cent of the community was opposed to the change.
Dr. Martin has been listening to the
debate and he has listened well. His insightfulness that, despite what the best
calendar choice might be, the smartest decision at this time was to end the
debate is to be commended.
At the same meeting, Dr. Martin
recommended minor but constructive changes to the Auburn City Schools'
calendar. The changes mean students don't have to study for final exams during
Christmas break and the spring break has been matched to Auburn University's
break, something university employees have consistently sought.
Under the approved calendar for the
1999-2000 academic year, school will begin Aug. 16, will conclude May 25, and
has thc same number of student days as the current school year.
After this recommendation, several of
those attending the meeting banged their fists on the table and laughed. One
YRS supporter seemed appalled that any changes at all would be made to thc
Dr. Martin has said it is time to put
an end to the debate. "I think closure on this issue is paramount
tonight," Dr. Martin said Tuesday. We agree.
Dr. Martin has been gracious in the
defeat of the alternative calendar proposal. He has listened to what the Stop
YRS group has said and has tried to hear the opinions of those who were less
He considered the effects an
alternative calendar would have on the community and has chosen not to pursue
Auburn is a community that has strongly
supported its educational system and its community leaders. The divisiveness
caused by this issue has gone far enough. It's time to put the community back
together to work toward one common goal -- the best education and quality of
life for our families.