The 2020-2021 school year will see Tullahoma students head into the classroom in July once again, over the objections of one educator speaking on behalf of her colleagues in the school system.

Dr. Candace Terry, a math teacher at Tullahoma High School and the president of the Tullahoma City Education Association, addressed the board of education prior to the vote in an effort to delay it and have more input on the calendar discussions.

Terry took issue with how the calendar drafts introduced to school administrators and teachers was presented and requested the board work more collaboratively on the calendars for future school years before adopting any more of them.

According to Terry, she spoke with both Interim Director of Schools Scott Hargrove and School Board Chairman Pat Welsh about having a representative from each school level join the board’s calendar subcommittee in order to have their concerns heard.

“These professional educators have experience that lends insight into calendar issues seen through the student perspective and the perspective of teachers,” she said.

That collaboration did not happen; however, she added.

“Tonight the school board will approve a calendar that did not access that valuable insight,” she said at the meeting.

Instead, the board was presented with two different calendar options: a calendar that, according to Hargrove, is “similar” to the current school year’s calendar (Option 1) and another that proposes a later start date and shortened fall and spring breaks (Option 2).

Terry said the difference in the two calendars would have “little impact on student academic gains or school climate.”

Another concern of Terry’s was the week-long Thanksgiving break. According to her, the high school students would be put at a disadvantage if the board approved Option 1 with the full week of vacation at Thanksgiving.

“Our most rigorous academic courses will administer high-stakes tests to students on the days that follow,” she told the board.

That schedule configuration could have a negative impact on THS educators as well, she said, as student performance on those state-mandated tests are tied to teacher evaluation scores.

For these reasons, she said, “the proposed calendar is not in the best interest of our students or school community.”

“Our school board members are responsible for the calendar decision-making that disadvantages our students and staff,” she added.

Terry’s concerns ultimately fell on deaf ears; however, as the board unanimously approved the Option 1 calendar for the 2020-2021 school year.

That calendar includes a July 29 start date, a seven-day fall break (Oct. 1 – 9), a full week off for Thanksgiving break, (Nov. 23 – 27) and a six-day spring break (March 12 – 19). The school year will conclude Friday, May 21, more than a week prior to Memorial Day.

Just prior to voting, Hargrove fielded questions and concerns from board members regarding any consensus on either option.

“I did reach out to our schools for input on the two options of the calendar,” he said. During this time, Hargrove said he received nearly equal support for each option, citing his conversations with East and West middle schools.

“One middle school was totally for one and one middle school was totally for the other,” he said.

Overall, Hargrove said, there was “not overwhelming” support for one calendar over the other; instead, Tullahoma High School ended up breaking a virtual tie by indicating a preference for Option 1.

With that evidence, board member Amy Johnson made a motion adopting the first calendar option.

The board could have also adopted the calendars for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years during this time; however, because Johnson’s motion only mentioned the 2020-2021 school year, only that calendar was adopted.

Board Chairman Pat Welsh told The News after the meeting that the board had time to decide on the following two years’ calendars.

The adopted calendar is below.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.

Staff Writer

Erin McCullough has won awards for her news reporting, community lifestyles and education reporting in the three years she's been a journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and currently lives in Tullahoma with her cat, Luna.

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