By Jeff Gallatin
School board members March 26 decided it was time for the middle and high schools to change and approved having the school day start 15 minutes earlier for students at both schools.
The decision, made at a special board meeting, came before an audience of about 40 parents, most of whom appeared to be in opposition to the change. The board voted 4-1 to move the middle school start time next year, from 7:38 to 7:23 a.m. and the high school’s from 7:45 to 7:20 a.m. Members voting for the change included Linda Cleary, Joanne DiCarlo, Tom Herbster and board President John Lasko. Terry Groden was the only board member to vote against the change. The board set the special meeting after it tabled the proposal at its regular March 20 meeting at which many parents spoke against the proposed time change at that meeting.
Tuesday’s action came after Lasko asked prior to the start of the board’s verbal deliberations if any audience member who had not spoken before, written an e-mail or letter to the district or if someone who had communicated before, had something new to say. When no one indicated that they did, Lasko closed off public comment. During the rest of the meeting, a few members of the audience made muttered comments, prompting Lasko to ask them to be quiet and ask for order. After the vote, several people shouted out frustrated comments about the vote as they left the meeting.
Stacie Servidio, a parent who stayed through the meeting, said afterward the decision will affect everybody in the schools.
“I am sad that our elected school board members choose not to listen to the voters and instead they were influenced by an interim superintendent and passed the proposed time change for next year,” she said. “When I was 4 years old, I volunteered in support of my first North Olmsted school levy. I have volunteered in some capacity in every school levy since. I have always supported our school district, school board and administration. This is the first time in all the years that I am disappointed. Sadly, I fear that we lost the support of community by this vote.
“This hits home for our family, who will have a middle school student and two high school students next year. Our oldest son will be a senior next year. He has done everything the district has asked of an honor student. He has great attendance, takes advanced-level classes and has passed every achievement test with advanced scores. After football or baseball practice he comes home and does hours of homework and studies. Now with this time change he will get less than six hours of sleep a night. I’m not sure how the school board or administration would perform under the same sleep restrictions. This is unhealthy for our students, both mentally and physically.”
Servidio said there are other options that will allow for intervention and address the administration’s concerns.
“Our neighboring district, Westlake has provided a great example,” she said. “Mr. Groden did his homework and provided great facts of this new option to be considered. However, other board members refused to listen to it. One even mentioned that it was too late to change, since the building principals would have to make adjustments with the schedules for next year. Why were they allowed to have students arrange schedules for next year and to assume this proposal would pass? It was even mentioned that changes could be made again next year if this proposal does not work. Why make the wrong change this year at the expense of our students?”
Board members voting in favor of the time, change said they understood the parents frustration, but attributed their vote for the time change to a need to find increased time for class and educational work because of additional state mandates. They also said that they believed school administrators who had come up with the proposal had put much time and thought into devising the plan.
Groden said he understood the need for coming up with ways to maintain the district’s tradition of educational excellence, but noted the concerns of parents and others about the new schedule cutting into students’ sleep and rest. He said he thought efforts to help students through intervention and additional time would be better focused on those students specifically, and not be brought about by something like moving the start of the school day.
Interim Superintendent Terry Krivak said afterward having the parents focus on the issue will help the district in its implementation of the time change.
“By watching our actions they’re making the process easier, by making sure we take care of all the details and dotting our I’s and crossing our T’s so this is implemented as smoothly as possible,” he said.