Now is not the time to skimp on crucial public education spending

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Each day brings new education headlines: "Class sizes skyrocket;" "Teacher positions eliminated;" "Schools cut arts education;" "Middle school athletics cut;" "Board considers fewer days;" "Threshold to qualify for support services rises." One after the other is a new idea about how to help our schools.

Unfortunately, these proposals are being made on the basis of the bottom line and not their educational value. They are short-term and shortsighted approaches to a long-term challenge.

I UNDERSTAND THAT these are difficult economic times, but you don't see proposals to take police off the streets, close the fire department one day per week, stop running ambulances after 8 p.m., or to stop offering water to citizens. We call these "essential services." What is more essential than the proper education of our children? What is more important to economic recovery than an educated, enlightened and responsible work force?

Some people would assume that, as a private-school headmaster, I'm happy to watch our public schools decline, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am as big an advocate of quality public schools as you will find.

Consider that the 25 percent of India's population with the highest IQs is larger than the total U.S. population. China could soon have the largest English-speaking population in the world, including the United States. Today educators have to prepare students for a global economy and jobs that don't yet exist.

For every imaginable reason, I believe now is the time for us to invest in education, not reduce our investment. Think we can't afford to pay for education? I think we can't afford not to.

From an economic standpoint, it is vital to our country's economy that we raise a generation of creative entrepreneurs, capable managers and adaptable workers. From a civic standpoint, a democracy can only survive -- let alone thrive -- if it has an educated citizenry that can think critically and independently. But most importantly, from a moral standpoint we cannot shortchange our children's future for the sake of balancing this year's budget.

BECAUSE GOOD independent schools such as mine keep class sizes small; maintain a commitment to enrichment education like the arts, PE, and foreign language; and increase services and support each year, we tend to benefit from cuts and chaos in public education. Parents rightly flee oversized classes; disruptive students who aren't receiving sufficient services; and program cuts in areas parents see as important. After all, it's a parent's responsibility to see to their own child's current needs.

But it's the responsibility of our elected officials to see to the needs of all children present and future. It would be narrow-minded and shortsighted of me to support the recently proposed cuts to education in our public schools, which themselves are shortsighted. Such cuts in education slash more than just budgets; they also slash our communities and our futures.

I have chosen to work in private schools for many personal reasons, not least of which is my desire to be in a setting where God is welcome in His many, mysterious ways. But as a person and a citizen, I believe strongly in the importance of public education and our country's need to invest in it.

IT IS GOOD AND healthy and democratic that parents have choices -- especially now that tax-funded programs such as Senate Bill 10 and the GOAL Scholarship help make those choices affordable for all families, not just the wealthy. And although I'm glad that more and more parents will consider their options in today's school climate, I also worry deeply about those who don't or won't.

Parents have to do what's best for their own children; it's our elected officials who need to do what's best for the system. Our public schools need serious help. We move in the wrong direction and send our children the wrong message when we shortchange their education and mortgage their futures. Please, when it comes to education, don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish. It won't pay in the long run.

(The writer is headmaster of Episcopal Day School in Augusta.)

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johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 02/24/10 - 11:46 pm
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oops

oops

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 02/24/10 - 11:47 pm
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oops

oops

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 02/24/10 - 11:48 pm
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As long as government and

As long as government and teacher unions control the purse strings for public education, the situation will remain desperate. Put the education budget into vouchers and allow parents to choose the school that best suits their children. If the free market is allowed to work, within 5 years America will once again have the best schools in the world. Of course, that is if the government does no more than redistribute the collected tax money and set general education related guidelines only.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/25/10 - 09:13 am
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Nice thoughts, Mr. Murray,

Nice thoughts, Mr. Murray, but there simply IS NO MONEY. Property taxes pay for schools paid by homeowners are maxed out. Use all your enthusiasm and experience to help find ways to better educate with what's available.

My personal advice is to make school a privilege and remove those who don't try or are disruptive. In addition, the vocational school announced today is perfect for channeling students into good paying blue collar jobs.

"...Education like the arts, PE, and foreign language.." is not the best idea for many.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/25/10 - 09:23 am
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Okay, this guy says he is

Okay, this guy says he is headmaster of a respected private school in Augusta; and then he offers the following gems:

- - - Consider that the 25 percent of India's population with the highest IQs is larger than the total U.S. population.- - -

- - - China could soon have the largest English-speaking population in the world, including the United States.- - -

These two statements have absolutely no relevance to his premise that we must raise taxes to fund public education. Can anybody else see that because the sizes of the populations of India and China are so much larger than the size of the population of the U.S., that picking random statistics is meaningless?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/25/10 - 09:33 am
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The headmaster says that

The headmaster says that proposed cuts in state spending on education are "shortsighted." Well folks, state tax revenues are down. When your income goes down your spending must go down. If the state raises taxes to keep public education spending on an upward trend, then you start a downward spiral as personal spending drops, sales tax collections drop, businesses fail, people are laid off, income tax collections drop, people lose their homes and business property tax assessments drop, property tax collections drop. This is where raising taxes leads.

No, Mr. Headmaster. The prudent thing to do is cut spending on public education and let the BOE trustees earn their keep and eliminate the educational "services" that contribute the least to students' actual learning.

In my opinion, the quickest way to make the most savings is the four-day school week, Tuesday through Friday. Such a change will not shortchange the students, because the schedule can be structured so that they get the same amount of classroom time.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/25/10 - 09:56 am
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Mr. Headmaster says, “Good

Mr. Headmaster says, “Good independent schools such as mine maintain a commitment to enrichment education like foreign languages.”

Riverman says, “Foreign language education is not the best idea for many.”

And then we have Mr. Headmaster's statement that there will soon be more English speakers in China than in the U.S. Well, if the whole world is learning English, it does make a case that we don't need to spend taxpayer money to teach languages other than English!

By the way, how many Chinese are studying Spanish, Mr. Headmaster?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/25/10 - 09:52 am
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LL, high five. Interesting

LL, high five. Interesting how this op-ed stood out because of its misconceptions.

Yeah, that thing about English speaking Chinese has been around for ever. But that's okay, they still say "weally."

Mr. Murray thought he could come here and write a cute little, support education type piece, while giving his private school a plug and everyone would think how great it all was. The discerning readers of the AC will get you every time, Mr. Murray.

Dixieman
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Dixieman 02/25/10 - 10:17 am
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johnston.cliff's third post

johnston.cliff's third post nailed this issue and I have nothing to add.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/25/10 - 12:25 pm
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Mr. Headmaster says: - - -

Mr. Headmaster says:

- - - Consider that the 25 percent of India's population with the highest IQs is larger than the total U.S. population.- - -

Little Lamb says:

- - - Consider that the 25 percent of the population of the U.S. with the highest IQs is larger than the total population of France.- - -

So what?

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Dan White 02/25/10 - 12:38 pm
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johnston.cliff - the teacher

johnston.cliff - the teacher unions in GA have been neutered by state law with no power to strike or negotiate contracts. Therefore, it is not the GA teacher unions causing this.

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Dan White 02/25/10 - 12:42 pm
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I want to know why, Mr.

I want to know why, Mr. Headmaster, that when all the taxpayers' money was pouring into public education that Georgia still had one of the highest drop-out rates, lowest SAT test scores, and one of the poorest public school performance ratings in the nation. That's the same old liberal line you are using. Throw money at it and fix it. Money ain't a gonna fix our educational problems.

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Dan White 02/25/10 - 01:22 pm
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Now, Mr. Headmaster, I won't

Now, Mr. Headmaster, I won't to address your alarmist statements. ""Class sizes skyrocket;" "Teacher positions eliminated;" "Schools cut arts education;" "Middle school athletics cut;" "Board considers fewer days;" "Threshold to qualify for support services rises." First, any teacher will tell you that if they had 32 highly motivated, well behaved students that they could do a good job. But, if they have 16 in a class and 5 are disruptive, unattentive, and unmotivated, that it is very frustrating and an almost impossible situation. Class size is irrelevant. What is not irrelevant is restoring order in the public schools. Second, what does arts education have to do with learning the basics of reading, writing, and 'rithmetic? Arts education is fluff and in hard times needs to be cut. Third, how does middle school athletics help with academic performance. Middle school athletics is extracurricular with the emphasis on EXTRA meaning in hard times, it is not needed. Fourth, who says that 180 school days is the gold standard for an education. Lots of days are wasted in taking practice tests for state tests, assemblies, and the first and last days of school are usually a joke. Cut the calendar to 175 days to save money in put more quality time into each day and cut out the fluff days. Teacher positions need to be cut. Graduation coaches, academic coaches, and the like are teacher positions and they need to be cut in hard times. How about cutting some PE teaching positions? I went to Poland on a good will ambassador trip and toured a school. They met in a building built in the 1920's and ran three shifts of students through that school. The kids walked to school, no meals were served, no PE classes, and I'm telling you, the kids who performed academic exercises for us ran circles around the students I taught when I was an educator. Plus, when the teacher walked into class, all the students stood silently out of respect for the teacher and remained standing until the teacher gave them the command to be seated. Class then began immediately instead of having to spend time quieting them down. In Poland, they got bang for their buck! Why can't we do more with less like other countries do? Moreover, I observed a school on Faning Island, the Republic of Kiribati in the Equatorial Central Pacific. The students sat on bench like desks. There were no walls - only a roof, and the teacher used chalk and a chalk board. Yet, everyone of those students was on task and engaged because they wanted an education. Finally, in regards to support services, RESA needs to go. I had supper last night with two teachers from Burke County and they said no one is whining or crying about losing RESA in their schools. In fact, they said that a lot of the "enrichment" they have to attend from RESA people is a waste of time and interferes with them getting ready for their classes. Moreover, no one on your faculty benefits from tax-payer funded support services like RESA, and all of your kids at EDS taught by faculty without public school support services perform magnificently on standarized tests!

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Dan White 02/25/10 - 01:05 pm
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It is comparing apples and

It is comparing apples and oranges to compare India and China's educational system with America where we are forced to try and educate all students. These kids in India and China have to test out in order to go to high school. This motivates them to study and pass if they want to go to high school. Those that fail are put into technical training programs where they can be employable after high school. Plus, how many times have you ever heard of a student in China or India punching a pregnant teacher in the belly and causing her to lose her baby? Or how many times have you heard of Chinese or Indian students having a rumble in the cafeteria resulting in mass suspensions and even arrests? Humm. Tell me! It's apples and oranges, Mr. Headmaster.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 02/25/10 - 01:08 pm
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50 years of throwing money at

50 years of throwing money at "education" has only produced one thing. A unionized "industry" that eats taxpayer money, produces sub-standard products, and uses their own poor product to try to guilt the public into throwing more taxpayer money their way. Will Mr. Murray please explain why we already spend more money per student than all other countries, all of which kick our rear in student performance every year. What we need to do is cut our spending on education, put disipline back in the schools, expel disruptive students immediately, and fire non-performing teachers and administrators. I do not believe anyone can cite a single instance of where increased spending has delivered better education in a public school system. In fact, a chart would probably show that the situation is inversely proportional. As we have increased our spending per student the quality of education, test scores, and graduation rates have steadily gone down and everyone knows it. It's time to do more with less Mr. Murray or move on an let some fresh, non-unionized blood into the education "industry".

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Dan White 02/25/10 - 03:54 pm
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Taxpayers have been bled dry

Taxpayers have been bled dry by local, state, and federal taxes. There is no blood left in this turnip, and budget cuts by governments across the board including education are in order. We can't endure more tax increases and survive economically.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/25/10 - 05:35 pm
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I remember when I was a kid

I remember when I was a kid in Mrs. DeHay's class. We had 45 students and we were well behaved. My name was 3rd from the top when she called the roll alphabetically every morning. I politely said "here" everyday. Cutting education funding is not the end of the world. Matter of fact, nothing will probably change as far as results. Inspired and uninspired students will stay the same.

Of course, Mrs. DeHay was a well respected person in town on the level with Dr. Speisegger and attorney, state senator, J.D.Parlor. Teachers back then had respect even if they didn't make the big bucks. You would never see anyone coming in Mrs. DeHay's room and taking her coffee pot.

apex24
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apex24 02/25/10 - 06:09 pm
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At what point do we say

At what point do we say enough is enough. We keep throwing money at education and the education keeps getting worse. Where's the money going?? Teachers want more money for salaries when students keep failing classes. Administrator's make 200-250k a year with Georgia & South Carolina always in the bottom percentile when it comes to student accomplishments. How can we keep throwing money at something we get absolutely nothing in return.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/25/10 - 06:18 pm
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I always liked those older,

I always liked those older, unconventional teachers, who would talk about the other teachers. Mrs. DeHay, whose husband was a mechanic, if I remember, used to talk about Mrs. Pace, whose husband was a med student about to become a doctor. (Mrs. Pace did the ultimate when she brought into the school a human skull that we all had to touch.) But Mrs. DeHay would let us 4th graders in on the fact Mrs. Pace didn’t need the job because her husband was going to be a doctor. She would also ask us what Mrs. Pace said about her.

Mrs. DeHay took a liking to me although I have no idea why because I had moved VERY slow when she had asked me to put the window up beside me. But after that episode and my “conference” with her after class, she would support me when I did the dumbest things, and I did lots of them. I even asked her why she liked me. All she would say is that she hated girls, near as I remember.

Trust me, there were many years we both though she was wrong, but I eventually did okay academically. I wonder if she knows I’m using her real name here today?

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 02/25/10 - 06:45 pm
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Greenjacket,(11:38) who said

Greenjacket,(11:38) who said the teachers union was causing this? I think you may be making things up or reacting to things not said.

JohnRandolphHardisonCain
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JohnRandolphHardisonCain 02/25/10 - 07:28 pm
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End the U.S. wars in Iraq and

End the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and cut the defense budget by 50%.

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Dan White 02/25/10 - 08:38 pm
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johnston.cliff. Your 10:38

johnston.cliff. Your 10:38 post said teacher union's were controlling the purse strings along with government. Teacher unions have no power in GA - no real power. Teachers are forbidden to strike or to negotiate contracts. The county school system sticks a contract in front of them and says sign it or don't work.

crackertroy
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crackertroy 02/25/10 - 08:56 pm
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The education of a child has
Unpublished

The education of a child has little to do with the schools and EVERYTHING to do with the way the parent raises the child.

dstewartsr
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dstewartsr 02/25/10 - 09:57 pm
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I agree with Riverman in that

I agree with Riverman in that I do not see the 'right' to a free education. It is, rather, a privilege, and an expensive one at that. If the child has no interest in obtaining an education, it is not the responsibility of the school or the state to motivate him/her. I have lived on the economy of several foreign countries and their model of advancement by merit, rather than ours of social promotion is FAR superior. I can also speak with some authority about classroom conditions. I was for almost five years a sustitute teacher.
For those who think this is a sinecure, think again; a substitute can be little more than a babysitter, true. But he must go into a classroom of young people, some of whom actually want an education, some of whom are there simply for the social and sports opportunities, and an ever present group whose entire aim is to be as confrontational and disruptive concommitent with not being arrested, and instill order and discipline and order for the benefit of the first group. I worked in all but a few of the schools at all grade levels, and there is no minimum age for the last category.
I will state categorically that if that significant group were (self)eliminated, that would make the education of the past --classes of forty plus, as I attended -- not only possible, but productive. But until we decide to protect and nurture the students who are engaged in getting an education, it will never improve. Point of fact, it will continue to deteriorate.

disssman
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disssman 02/25/10 - 10:07 pm
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Dear headmaster. The Indian

Dear headmaster. The Indian schools you talked about don't have fancy computer chalkboards costing thousands of dollars nor fancy computer terminals costing thousands of dollars nor fleets of vehicles costing thousands of dollars. No, they use chalk boards, books anf feet and still they outperform our schools. And our schools are organized and run by the highest paid bunch of burocrats in the world. Amazing isn't it. They accomplish 100 times as much as you do for a pittance in cost. Why?

disssman
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disssman 02/25/10 - 10:09 pm
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I almost forgot. They are

I almost forgot. They are probably not obsessed with teaching the bible in school and focus instead on math, science and yes, english as a first language.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/26/10 - 09:32 am
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Mr. Headmaster says: - - -

Mr. Headmaster says:

- - - Consider that the 25 percent of India's population with the highest IQs is larger than the total U.S. population.- - -

Well, consider this:

- - - Consider that the 25 percent of India's population with the highest income is larger than the total U.S. population.- - -

- - - Consider that the 25 percent of India's population with the highest phone bills is larger than the total U.S. population.- - -

- - - Consider that the 25 percent of India's population with the lowest birth weight is larger than the total U.S. population.- - -

- - - Consider that the 25 percent of India's population with the highest nutrition is larger than the total U.S. population.- - -

- - - Consider that the 25 percent of India's population with the highest stature is larger than the total U.S. population.- - -

- - - Consider that the 25 percent of India's population with the lowest hat sizes is larger than the total U.S. population.- - -

That is because the population of India is over four times the population of the U.S.

ron_rlw
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ron_rlw 02/26/10 - 12:51 pm
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While I agree that we can't

While I agree that we can't afford to skimp on our childern's educations ... we also have to refocus are priorities on how we educate our kids ... and we may find that better teaching doesn't cost as much as bad teaching.

orgpsych
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orgpsych 03/01/10 - 03:12 am
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Considering the poor

Considering the poor spelling, atrocious grammar, and poorly thought through logic of some of these posts, it is clear that the schools of old failed to do a very good job.

Throwing money at the problem may not be the ultimate answer, but neither are school vouchers, dismantling the Board of Education (refer to my first paragraph), or slashing spending on education.

Get rid of No Child Left Behind. We had classes into which those who simply did not make the grade (no pun intended) were channeled. That allowed those who could to excel. The others finished school in their own time, but they finished.

What will you do with those you expel, anyway? More importantly, what will they do? Turn to crime? Now there's a conundrum.

Look beyond the pieces on the board and see the game in depth.

I questioned once why I had to read and analyze classic literature. My Uncle, a construction worker, told me it was so I could call someone a jackass without them knowing it.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 03/09/10 - 09:44 am
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Not a practical suggestion,

Not a practical suggestion, OrgPsych. The “No Child Left Behind” Act is a federal law. It would take an act of Congress to get rid of it, and that ain't a gonna happen (please excuse the atrocious grammar). Reduced tax revenues are causing spending cuts right now! These spending cuts have to be dealt with in real time, and asking for the federal government to bail us out is unlikely to produce results.

If we're going to the four-day school week, we had better decide quickly, because it has to be planned if it's going to be executed effectively. You don't go to the four-day school week in the middle of a school year. August will be here before you know it.

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