Early release Wednesdays show positive results

ataylor@bradenton.comMarch 31, 2011 

BRADENTON -- A lot of negative factors have been attributed to early release Wednesdays in the Manatee County School District, according to board members. That’s why Wednesday night’s workshop was scheduled.

The board wanted to review statistical information and surveys to find out how parents feel about students leaving early. The time missed on Wednesday is made up the other four days of the week. And teachers are able to have professional development and extra lesson planning time.

But the question posed by board members was how do the majority of the county’s parents feel about the shortened time?

According to phone surveys, 4,722 or 48 percent of the parents who responded said early release Wednesdays should continue for the 2011-12 school year. About 36.6 percent, or 3,556, disagreed and 14.7 percent were undecided.

The most telling survey, however, came from the school advisory councils. Of the 558 parents in school advisory councils who submitted their survey, 50.5 percent strongly agree and 24.1 percent agree that the Wednesday schedule should be available for teachers. Only 9.86 percent disagreed and 6.63 percent strongly disagreed that early release Wednesday should be available for students.

School board member Barbara Harvey said she was pleased to hear the survey results.

“The reason we went to the Wednesdays was because teachers were picketing,” Harvey told the group of more than 30 attending the workshop. “They picketed because they did not have planning time. They told us they needed time to plan.”

Harvey, chairman Bob Gause and board member Julie Aranibar said they heard from several people complaining about the shortened Wednesday schedule. Aranibar, Gause, vice-chairman Harry Kinnan and board member Karen Carpenter asked a few other questions to ease their minds about parents’ concerns.

“How do Wednesdays compare to the other days of the week?” Carpenter asked.

Aranibar asked, “My first question is why Wednesday and why not Friday?”

“There is legitimate concern with this board that a lot of our parents sacrificed financially because of this,” Kinnan said.

District administrators also showed board members pregnancy statistics, FCAT results before and after implementation of early release Wednesday and crime statistics. While the pregnancy rates pretty much stayed the same, Carpenter asked for a more thorough comparison. She wanted statistics showing how Wednesday’s crimes compared to the other days of the week.

High school and middle school FCAT scores significantly improved district-wide in reading and math. However, elementary school FCAT scores have largely stayed the same.

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