Cylke: February vacation here to stay

Cylke: February vacation here to stay

Slams Breeze story in email to school staff

PAWTUCKET - Supt. Deborah Cylke is stepping back from statements to The Breeze that she would consider eliminating February vacation in the future, saying she has no such plans and that she never made the statements.

In a memo sent to all staff members of the Pawtucket School Department last Thursday, and forwarded to the newspaper by members of the department, Cylke said she has no plans to ever make changes to the vacation schedule.

"I have no intent or plans to change vacation weeks in future years," she wrote.

In her letter to school employees, Cylke rips The Breeze for a report last week stating that she was considering eliminating February vacation as a way to add instructional time and possibly accommodate other changes to the schedule.

Cylke said in her memo to school employees that instruction time is set by statute, at 180 days, and therefore cannot be changed at a district level.

Changes could be made following an ongoing look into school absentee data, said Cylke for last week's story, including making the Wednesday before Thanksgiving an off day.

Cylke, who indicated that she received a number of calls from concerned teachers before firing off the letter, noted that she did mention that Cumberland had eliminated three days of February vacation. She doesn't know why Cumberland officials decided to make the change, she said.

Cylke did not make an effort to contact The Breeze about her concerns prior to sending out the memo, and did not wish to talk about it when reached Monday.

The "bottom line," according to Cylke, is that the school calendar approved by the Pawtucket School Committee last Tuesday reflects "a collaborative effort."

"The February and Spring breaks are in the calendar, and have not been moved or eliminated as The Breeze article implies," she wrote.

But The Breeze story made no definitive statements, saying instead such changes "could be" made in the future based on Cylke's comments.

At the April 23 school board meeting, the 2013-2014 school calendar was approved by the Pawtucket School Committee. The schedule calls for a full two weeks off at Christmas, as New Year's Day falls on a Wednesday. The calendar also leaves February vacation intact.

In her memo last Thursday, Cylke went well beyond denying her previous statements about the schedule, saying that she doesn't read The Breeze because it "is not worthy of my attention and time." She said she does not find "unbiased reporting" in the publication.

School Committee Chairman Alan Tenreiro declined to comment on those statements and other more inflammatory contents of the district-wide memo.

Cylke told The Breeze for last week's story that the data gleaned from the ongoing study on absenteeism "may drive some calendar changes," adding that the information from a review on absenteeism can help push the district to make "good decisions."

"I gave him (Ethan Shorey) two examples of how data from the study can inform calendar considerations and future decisions," she wrote. "If, for example, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the Friday before spring break are high employee and student absenteeism days, then we may want to consider having these days as vacation days."

Cylke said she is aware of a number of districts nationally that have no school on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, as that is a family travel day for many. It is not uncommon that the Friday before spring break is a vacation day, she said.

"Anyone who listens to their employees will know that the airfare on a Thursday evening is much lower than on a Friday or Saturday before a spring break week," she said.

"Again, these were examples," she wrote. "I would never consider making any major changes to a schedule or school calendar without surveying employees, working collaboratively with my union leaders, looking at the data and getting input from families."