The Cobb School Board unanimously voted Thursday to set up a 21-member calendar committee that will make a recommendation by Oct. 1 for the 2012-13 school year.
Elected and other officials often dump hot-potato issues into the laps of committees in order to buy time, hoping the issue will cool off in the interim or that the delay will buy them breathing space to address other issues.
But that won’t be the case here. Too many people have their minds already made up about what kind of calendar is best: a traditional-style one that starts in late August or even early September; or the faddish “balanced” calendar that starts in early August (or even late July) and has numerous built-in breaks and vacations.
The makeup of the new committee is weighted toward the administration, with a majority (11) of its members to be either central office employees or school staffers. Eight more will be picked by the PTA councils, no doubt with heavy behind-the-scenes influence from the central office. Only two members, one from business and one from higher education, might be lacking without ties to the administration.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa had originally proposed a 27-member committee and described the decision to pare it down to 21 as progress.
“I am pleased to get something done,” Hinojosa said.
But all he and the board have agreed to do is to kick the issue down the road till next October.
A MAJORITY of the board’s present members were elected last year after running on platforms calling for a return to a traditional calendar and greater board control over the superintendent.
Why would they now be drifting away from those pledges, which were supported by the majority of those who voted in the elections? Why can’t they just do what they promised to do and direct the superintendent to come up with a traditional calendar? After all, Hinojosa himself has said there is little academic evidence that one calendar is better than the other.
Sometimes it’s not clear whether an issue is one that should be decided by the superintendent or the board, but that’s not the case here. The school calendar has always been a board decision in Cobb, even at times when we had a weak board and strong superintendent.
Most of the board ran on a strong board, pro-traditional-calendar platform. Why would its members now after less than a year in office be shying away from those promises?
And what happens if Hinojosa and his committee recommend a balanced calendar, as they almost certainly will? Then those board members would either have to refute their earlier promises or publicly rebuke their new superintendent. An unhappy situation either way you look at it.
Instead, the board should come up with its own proposal for a traditional calendar, give it to the superintendent and then direct him to implement it with whatever minor changes or window dressing is needed.
We have said it before and we’ll say it again: This school system has much more serious issues facing it than the calendar — issues that would have a much more direct bearing on student achievement than the calendar. There’s no way at this point that any calendar will satisfy everybody. Recent boards and superintendents have let themselves get sucked into continual controversies over the calendar when the smarter thing to do would be to choose a calendar and move on. We thought that was what this board had agreed to do with its vote on the calendar last winter, but bitter-enders on and off the board continue trying to keep the kettle boiling.
And appointing an unwieldy, pro-central office committee is likely just to keep it boiling even longer.