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2014-03-28 digital edition

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

March 28, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

FCAT compromise reached with Pinellas Schools

Letter from Pinellas County Board of Rabbis

Dear members of the Jewish community,

As you may already be aware, this year there is a conflict in the scheduling of Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests (FCATs) and the holiday of Pesach. Specifically, exams are being given on April 15 and 16 (the first two days of Passover) and April 22 (the eighth/last day of Pesach.) While it most directly impacts our children in grades 3-10, this is a matter of importance for all of us as Jewish residents of Pinellas County.

Over the last six weeks, members of the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis met and worked in close consultation with Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Bill Corbett to provide alternatives for our Jewish students. We’ve also worked with the assessment officials in Tallahassee and counsel for the Anti-Defamation League. While there are state legal statutes that prohibit the county [school board] from simply “making the tests happen later,” the officials in Tallahassee have agreed to give county officials leeway in creating alternative make-up dates for students wishing to observe Passover.

If you have a child in grades 3-10 in Pinellas County Public Schools, you may wish to make alternative arrangements for your child. Two important matters to understand:

• Each FCAT exam is given in Pinellas County over two days, so arrangements must be made so that your child takes both parts of the exam in the correct order.

• You must speak to your child’s principal in advance of the examinations to make these arrangements. All Pinellas School principals were made aware of the need for flexibility and creating alternatives.

Here are the alternatives that were suggested by Dr. Corbett in consultation with us, though you are free to create another alternative with your principal. Please read carefully as this is a bit complicated:

• Students who have tests scheduled on April 14 and 15 may start the test on the 14th and complete it on the regularly scheduled makeup day, April 17.

• OR, students who have tests on April 14 or 15 may choose to DELAY taking those exams until after Passover, on April 24 and 25. If a student should plan for taking the make up on the 24th and 25th and then be absent due to ILLNESS, there would still be time to make up the test on the 28th and 29th.

• Students who choose to miss testing on April 22 (the 8 day of Pesach, during the second week of exams) would also need to skip the 23rd, then either make the test up during the ‘normal’ make-up period of April 24 and 25, or another special period arranged for them with the principal.

Each option has pros and cons which you must weigh based upon your own level of

Dear members of the Jewish community,

As you may already be aware, this year there is a conflict in the scheduling of Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests (FCATs) and the holiday of Pesach. Specifically, exams are being given on April 15 and 16 (the first two days of Passover) and April 22 (the eighth/last day of Pesach.) While it most directly impacts our children in grades 3-10, this is a matter of importance for all of us as Jewish residents of Pinellas County.

Over the last six weeks, members of the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis met and worked in close consultation with Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Bill Corbett to provide alternatives for our Jewish students. We’ve also worked with the assessment officials in Tallahassee and counsel for the Anti-Defamation League. While there are state legal statutes that prohibit the county [school board] from simply “making the tests happen later,” the officials in Tallahassee have agreed to give county officials leeway in creating alternative make-up dates for students wishing to observe Passover.

If you have a child in grades 3-10 in Pinellas County Public Schools, you may wish to make alternative arrangements for your child. Two important matters to understand:

• Each FCAT exam is given in Pinellas County over two days, so arrangements must be made so that your child takes both parts of the exam in the correct order.

• You must speak to your child’s principal in advance of the examinations to make these arrangements. All Pinellas School principals were made aware of the need for flexibility and creating alternatives.

Here are the alternatives that were suggested by Dr. Corbett in consultation with us, though you are free to create another alternative with your principal. Please read carefully as this is a bit complicated:

• Students who have tests scheduled on April 14 and 15 may start the test on the 14th and complete it on the regularly scheduled makeup day, April 17.

• OR, students who have tests on April 14 or 15 may choose to DELAY taking those exams until after Passover, on April 24 and 25. If a student should plan for taking the make up on the 24th and 25th and then be absent due to ILLNESS, there would still be time to make up the test on the 28th and 29th.

• Students who choose to miss testing on April 22 (the 8 day of Pesach, during the second week of exams) would also need to skip the 23rd, then either make the test up during the ‘normal’ make-up period of April 24 and 25, or another special period arranged for them with the principal.

Each option has pros and cons which you must weigh based upon your own level of religious observance and your own child’s needs. (For example, it may not be best for your child to start an exam on the 14th and finish it three days later.) Also, when making the arrangements, keep in mind that if your child is in school while classmates are taking exams, they may be moved to a different class for coverage.

Again, what is most important is that you must make arrangements in advance of the examinations with your school principals. If you run into any conflict or refusals from your child’s school, please let your rabbi know immediately.

We are aware that this is far from a perfect situation. The calendar is being squeezed by ignorance, statute and bureaucracy. Know that many counties are not making any changes. We are glad to see the efforts of our School staff, especially Drs. Grego and Corbett, to work with us in meeting the needs of our Jewish community. It is clearly important to them to not have our families feel that their experience of Passover will conflict with FCAT testing, and they are prepared to continue to help so that we can mitigate the conflict over these few weeks of testing.

In addition, for many years there has been a partnership between the Board of Rabbis and the Pinellas County Schools to create a school calendar that does not conflict with Jewish holiday observances. The examination schedules, however, were done by a separate body. Drs. Grego and Corbett have already assured us several times that we will be invited to participate in setting the examination schedules in the future so that they are in keeping with our calendar as well.

Moving forward, we are working in partnership with our colleagues throughout the state and with elected officials to change the statutes that mandate the examination schedule without accounting for any special religious observances. If you would like to be a part of that effort, please let your rabbi know.

Rabbi Leah Herz
Menorah Manor
Rabbi Gary Klein
Temple Ahavat Shalom
Rabbi Jacob Luski
Congregation B’nai Israel
Rabbi Michael Torop
Temple Beth El
Rabbi Daniel Treiser
Temple B’nai Israel
Rabbi Danielle Upbin &
Rabbi David Weizman
Congregation Beth Shalom


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