Add Pinellas County interim superintendent John Stewart to the list of critics of early-release Wednesdays.
The practice of dismissing students one hour early so that teachers can have time for planning has drawn criticism from parents and others since it began in 2009.
When discussion at Tuesday's School Board workshop turned to planning for the 2012-13 school year calendar, board member Robin Wikle asked if there were any issues that needed to be addressed.
At first, no one said anything. Then Stewart volunteered his view:
"I never miss a chance to say … early-release days are not serving the purpose they were originally intended," he said, acknowledging that a change in the schedule requires bargaining with the teachers union. "But if we go as a united voice, it's a lot better than if we say some of us think that."
Stewart said later that he feels the shortened days pose a hardship for families, particularly single-parent households. He also said he thinks they disrupt students' focus and can interrupt instruction.
He said he agrees that teachers need time for staff development and planning but thinks there are other ways to find that time.
"We'll begin that discussion," he said.
In a Web-based poll administered by the school district and published in February, a majority of parents surveyed at all grade levels favored eliminating early-release days, while most staffers and students said they favored keeping them.
Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or firstname.lastname@example.org.