BY KARISSA MILLER

The Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education adopted the “early start” option for the 2023-2024 school year on Monday night following a spirited debate on whether the district should do what’s best for students or continue to follow a law that board members don’t like.

Under the approved calendar, the school year will begin on August 14, 2023, and end on May 24, 2024. The calendar includes 1,025 instructional hours spread over 175 student days. There are nine extra days built in for inclement weather.

The calendar, which circumvents the State of North Carolina’s school calendar law, squeaked by on a 4-3 vote, with new board members Mike Kubiniec and Anita Kurn joining Chairman Bill Howell and Charles Kelly in voting to support the “early start” option.

Board members Abby Trent, Doug Knight and Brian Sloan cast the opposing votes

“My struggle is with the oath I took,” said Sloan, a new board member. “I’m all for fighting. If I were at the Boston Tea Party, I’d throw the tea in the water. But if I just had got through taking an oath, I wouldn’t throw the tea in the water.”

Trent, another newcomer, agreed.

“I personally support the early calendar schedule; however, the North Carolina law is very clear, and like Mr. Sloan said we took an oath last week to follow the law. I can’t knowingly vote for something that is against the law,” she said.

Trent encouraged all parents to contact their state legislators and encourage them to change the law, which prescribes a very specific date each year before which the school year cannot begin. That date is typically in late-August.

Knight also said he has issues with taking an oath and then breaking it.

“When I talk to people in the community, they are like ‘they probably won’t do anything to you,’ ” Knight said. “My problem is do we get to pick and choose which laws we break and which laws we don’t.”

The question, Knight said, comes down to whether the law is unjust or something he does not like. In this case, Knight said, it is the latter.

Kurn, who was also elected in November, gave examples throughout history of issues that people took a stand against, including key figures in the Civil Rights movement. She said the early calendar is a small issue to some people, but also asked: “Is it to the stakeholders of Iredell County who want to provide students with every opportunity to succeed?”

“I vote for the early calendar. I vote for the children,” she said.

Kubiniec, the vice chair, shared his take on the existing school calendar law.

“We are wasting resources if students go back in January and then we spend days and hours reviewing material that’s already been taught,” he said. “We’ve got learning-loss issues throughout this county and throughout our country. Why are we wasting time reviewing material instead of teaching something new?”

Under the existing law, the first semester does not end until sometime in January for traditional students, meaning high school students take their final exams for the semester after returning from the holiday break.

Kubiniec said leadership is hard. He encouraged the board to lead on this issue and other issues that they will face.

“I believe it’s the best thing to do for our students, our parents and our families,” he added.

Kelly had a slightly different take. “I don’t see it as breaking the law, but I think somebody may look at it and say maybe we missed something here and we need to revisit this,” he explained.

N.C. School Calendar law background and I-SS survey

The state’s current school calendar law was passed by the N.C. General Assembly in 2004.

School districts have been pleading with lawmakers for years to provide flexibility so school districts that choose to do so can end the first semester before the holiday break. The current calendar also is not aligned with the local community college calendar, which starts earlier.

As a result, some school districts have applied for exemptions based on their historic start dates – and others have just ignored the state’s calendar law. Districts with early start dates include Mooresville Graded School District, Cleveland County, Gaston County, Swain and Jackson County, all of which began 2022-2023 school year earlier than permitted by state law.

Last week, Laura Elliot, I-SS director of Testing, Accountability and Student Information, shared data with the I-SS Board about the school calendar survey that garnered more than 4,860 responses.

The overwhelming majority of respondents wanted an early start to the school year so students have the opportunity to take exams before the holiday break, according to Elliot.

“Our stakeholders want to know, if they can do it, why can’t we?” she said.


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27 thoughts on “I-SS Board disregards state law, approves ‘early start’ option for 2023-2024 school year

  1. Other school systems around Iredell are doing the same thing but it doesn’t make it right to break the law just because they might not do anything to the board. Wouldn’t it make sense to follow the law while attempting to change the law and then change the school dates?

  2. Linda Johnson says:

    I agree that it would be best to end the semester before Christmas break but what is the example that this Board is giving to the students? It’s wrong to choose which laws to uphold and break the ones you don’t like.
    Think about what our society would look like if everyone did whatever they pleased with no regard to law. You elected the legislature in Raleigh. Go through the proper channels.

  3. Raymond E. ONeill says:

    The Law is the Law. If you disagree with it, work to change the Legislation.
    What kind of message do you send to the public? There are consequences for breaking the Law and these sworn officials should be held accountable.

  4. Namon Howard Hare says:

    Ms. Johnson: While I do agree with many parts of your statement, I think if you look around at ” our society.” For the most part, were already there. It’s just presented more openly now. You simply pay for what you want “or not” and move on. “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”
    John 16:33

  5. What would you expect from new board members whose only experience is telling others what to do and then cry “Victim!” whenever they are shown to be the unfortunate members elected that they are.

    It will only get worse.

  6. The old board would not oppose directives from the Governor regarding the China virus. Now this board is willing to circumvent an actual law. We all know the Eastern part of NC is the reason for the late start for schools.

  7. Dr Dankenstein says:

    These elected folks who voted to break state law should have to cover every single cent of money that will be spent fixing their idiocy. Give a monkey half a brain and he thinks he rules the universe.

  8. Geez! Something else to argue over. Our children have suffered enough. These kids deserve what is best for them. And the best people to judge that are the teachers! Send a survey to them. Board members meeting periodically cannot know all the answers. Breaking the law is not a good thing to teach the kids. But voting in their best interest with input from those who are in the classroom might be the best solution.

  9. Elected officials doing as they please instead of as they should. Great example to enforce what today’s youth are already learning. Make it easier and just do as you please.

  10. No offense to anyone, but the law is the law and should be dealt with correctly. At the moment I think some schools have bigger problems than when to start the new school year. There are fights at high school almost every other day (at least at West Iredell High) that needs to be addressed.

  11. Gretta Avendraugh says:

    Could the puppet master Micah Phelps not get his votes lined up? I guess since it had nothing to do with masks or books, he didn’t really care. Seems like the smartest political mind in Iredell County could do better!

    • I don’t know what I have done to you personally that would warrant such consistent hatred and animosity, but I apologize for whatever it was.

      I respect your fire, but directing it at me is a true waste of talent. I’m not a puppet master, I’m a nobody. Politicians created that nom de guerre.

      To correct the record, there is a lot I care about and a lot more people who need someone to keep fighting for them. Get ready for 2023, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

      With Love,
      Micah

      • Gretta Avendraugh says:

        No need to apologize. It only shows how weak you’ve become. Your approval ratings are dropping faster than your QANON leader Trump. Btw. What happened to your weekly radio show? It was so entertaining.

  12. No offense to all those who are more concerned with the ridiculous law that was passed in 2004, but hooray for the new Board and finally standing up for the students and their actual learning. I-SS bucked the law several years ago and the students were finally given the opportunity to take exams before the Holiday Break. Then the I-SS Board went back to the old system and the students suffered. The law was passed to boost, which we all know benefits the Eastern part of the state and not Iredell County. Great job, I-SS Board.

  13. Veteran teacher says:

    The NC Tourism board wanted this sham of a law to not infringe on their precious tourism in August! They didn’t care about students when they forced it on NC, so stop acting as if we are committing murder. As a veteran NC teacher, I applaud the school board for listening to its stakeholders and doing what the county (NOT STATE) should be in control over anyway!!

    • Gerald Mansgate says:

      As a veteran teacher, you should understand how much money tourism generates in North Carolina and how some of that money makes it’s way back to Iredell County. Tax revenue from tourism benefits all of us.

  14. I would have never voted for Captain Mike if I had known he was a hypocrite. To say you uphold honesty and integrity, and then turn around and vote to go against the state law. Way to go! You really set a good example for our youth. Way to teach them that if you don’t like a certain law, it’s okay to break it.

  15. Totally agree! It’s a shame to have a board that takes an oath to uphold the laws; yet one of the first things some of the new members do “after” taking that oath is to break a law. WOW!

  16. I haven’t agreed with some of the decisions the board has made over the last couple of years but this decision will benefit the students and teachers. Everybody screaming about not following the law — can you honestly say that it makes sense for the kids/teachers to take and give finals after Christmas break? They waste two weeks reviewing when they could actually be learning. Thank you for choosing what is best for the kids and school staff. This should be left up to each county or district to decide.

  17. Science Teacher ISS says:

    WTG ISS SB. Don’t listen to the democrats crying about “breaking laws”. That’s all they’ve done for decades now. If they cared about kids, they wouldn’t push gender dysphoria or sexual content on them. It’s nice to see Board Members STAND UP for what’s right for the students and Teachers. Bring back Discipline- get these out of control kids back in line. Stop the fights and tik toc games. Smacking teachers’ butts in the hallway and disrespecting us every day. THANK GOD FOR THE NEW SCHOOL BOARD!!

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