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District votes to change school calendar — again

The Newton Community School District’s new superintendent, Bob Callaghan, made his presence felt at the Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Callaghan proposed changes for the district’s 2013-14 school calendar, which had just been approved at the June 24 meeting. The only change, and one that caused a debate, was turning Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, into a school day.

“In the last calendar, we did not have the appropriate number of student contact dates,” Callaghan said. “The day that I wanted to report missing from the holidaysis January 20, a non-school day. Any other resolution would have pushed the (school year) end date into June.”

During the 2012-13 school year, Newton students had the day off. At Callaghan’s previous district, the Rogers Independent School District in Texas, students attended class on MLK Day during the 2012-13 school year, and 2013-14 district calendar lists them as having school on the day as well.

“From the school district’s side, we did give teachers the opportunity to have input,” Callaghan said. “We also didn’t want to put this off for another two weeks because of the time sensitiveness of (it). We went through every option, and no matter which way you cut it, there had to be one more additional day added into the student contact calendar, and it had to be a student contact day.”

Board members took turns commenting on the matter.

“I think that we will take some heat for having school on Martin Luther King Day,” Donna Cook said.

Board memeber Nat Clark questioned having no school on Good Friday.

“Why do we need to be off for April 18?” Clark asked. “That has nothing to do with any kind of educational thing. If we are going to lump other bogus holidays in, why do we need to be off for Good Friday? It has nothing to do with education?”

Board member Dennis Combs offered a solution.

“We’re an educational group and, given Martin Luther King Day, I don’t know a whole lot of recognition that goes on in the community,” Combs said. “I think that it would benefit our students greatly if they recognized that our community is changing — it’s becoming more diverse out here.

“I think (we should make that) a special work day instead of us getting yelled at for not doing it,” he continued. “Let’s have the kids recognize not just Martin Luther King, but we have a president of color. We have all sorts of stuff going on. Let’s turn that from having a problem into an educational day.”

Other board members offered their input on the proposed amendment.

“Many school districts have school on Martin Luther King Day,” Don Poynter said. “I think that we should recognize it, and if it’s a (student) contact day, then great. Let’s recognize it.”

“We haven’t consistently had that holiday off over the years,” Sherri Benson said.

“We’ve had it and we haven’t had it, very inconsistent,” board president Andy Elbert added.

The measure was passed 6-1, with Clark having the only no vote on the amendment.

“I still don’t understand the whole Good Friday off,” Clark said prior to the vote. “If you want Good Friday off, why allocate for professional development day the day before? Make Good Friday the professional development day.”

Multiple board members attempted to justify the amended calendar to Clark, and he responded with something he had brought up in the past.

“I represent people that can’t stand early out Wednesdays,’” Clark said.

The new calendar will consist of:

• 180 days of student contact.

• 178 days of instruction.

• Seven professional development days for teachers.

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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