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Aulander Elementary School to revert back to traditional calendar

By Amanda Bunch

Bertie County Schools

AULANDER – Beginning with the school year 2020-2021, Aulander Elementary School will no longer operate on a separate, year round calendar.

In 2013-2014, under previous administration, Aulander was piloted in Bertie County to operate on a “modified” year round calendar. It has operated on such a calendar up until the current school year.

After analysis of performance data, promised yet failed outcomes from 2013 and a parent poll during Fall 2019, Bertie County Schools Superintendent Dr. Otis L. Smallwood presented a recommendation to the School Board on March 10 for Aulander to go back operating on a traditional calendar, along with all the rest of the schools—except of course for Bertie Early College High School, which has a calendar that aligns with Martin Community College.

One of the reasons for the initial pilot was to increase the education opportunities available to students and parents in Bertie County. This was during a time when charter schools were popping up, and public schools were facing decreased enrollment numbers due to the charters and the already existing private schools in the local area. Leaders then were looking for ways to compete with the private and charter schools by way of offering innovation and the Arts at Aulander.

To the degree that it offered an additional educational option for students and parents, the pilot “passed.” However, in looking at other promised outcomes for going year round, the school did not pass. For example, the school was never able to fully launch its STEM and STEAM focus areas—that is, offering science, technology, engineering and math, as well as an Arts-infused curriculum. The school also never infused technology PD for all staff, and remediation and enrichment did not occur for students all year long, among other reasons.

In looking at the 2018 elementary data, Aulander neither outperformed nor underperformed the other elementary schools.

“Therefore, year round school had a limited impact upon student achievement,” said Bertie County Schools Superintendent Dr. Otis L. Smallwood.

“Also, a beginning-of-the-year staff meeting revealed that 100 percent of staff indicated that they dislike the year round calendar and would prefer to be on the same calendar as the other elementary schools,” he continued.

“Teacher turnover is also a problem there. By mid-year of the current year, Aulander had lost 50 percent of its core teaching staff, who had secured employment elsewhere,” Dr. Smallwood added. “Feedback from exit interviews showed that at least one reason why they chose to leave was due to the calendar. Aulander is currently missing its 2nd, 4th and 5th grade teachers.”

To gauge the feelings of parents, Dr. Smallwood attended an awards program at the school in January and explained how Aulander’s reverting back to a traditional calendar would be beneficial, and how the year round model had no impact upon student performance. A brief survey was administered after the presentation, and Dr. Smallwood was on hand to answer questions, address concerns and gather feedback from parents.

What he found was that while many parents like or prefer the year round calendar, they understand why it makes sense to go back to the traditional calendar—especially when presented with the 2018 GLP results in comparison to the other elementary schools.

“Parents said it was an eye-opener to see that the year round calendar had little effect on student performance,” he said.

Seventy-one percent of respondents said that they would keep their child there if Aulander went back to a traditional calendar; and 59 percent said that they would support the decision of the Board and Superintendent if Aulander were to revert to the same calendar as all other elementary schools.

Following a brief presentation to the Board with the aforementioned details on March 10, Christine Dudley made the motion to approve the Superintendent’s recommendation for Aulander to revert back to a traditional calendar beginning August 2020. The motion passed unanimously.