School Start Date Change Right Move

Responsive elective government was on display in Worcester County this week on two occasions — the County Commissioners reversed an earlier decision by withdrawing opposition to a legislative change allowing Berlin to have its own to-go liquor store, and the Board of Education voted to move the start of the school year to the day after Labor Day for the first time in five years.

In this space, let’s deal with the school board’s decision. In the Between The Lines column, there are viewpoints on the commissioners’ wise move.

The Board of Education’s 5-1 vote to move the start date for the 2014-2015 school year to the day after Labor Day was a surprise for many for two reasons.

One, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson earlier this month outlined his reasons for opposing an ongoing effort to introduce legislation in Maryland that would mandate all school systems start the school year after Labor Day. Wilson and every other superintendent in the state oppose that change. It’s rare, at least in Worcester, for the Board of Education to go against the superintendent. As a matter of fact, we can’t recall a high-profile issue in recent history when the school board and the superintendent were not on the same page.

Secondly, earlier in the school year, parents were asked their opinion on the next school year’s calendar. There were a few options presented, but neither included a post-Labor Day school start date. That omission was a clear message to parents that the county was not at that time considering pushing the start of school to September. Instead, for those feeling strongly about it, parents could state in a comment portion their opinion. According to the most recent survey, 73 parents, or about 5 percent of the 1,448 surveys returned, did just that. That was a poor reflection of current opinions.

For these reasons, and others, there was no indication up until Tuesday the Board of Education was on board with delaying the start of school by a week. We were pleasantly surprised by this week’s decision and it reflects the majority opinion of parents and teachers by our estimation.

Board of Education President Bob Rothermel was right when he said this move might “send a message” to the other school systems in the state reluctant to change their start date in light of what will likely be a legislative effort to mandate just that in the 2015 General Assembly session.

What Worcester County does matters on the education front because it’s one of the best public school systems in the state by all measures