Board of Education says "NO" to 4-Day school week

by Charles Gerian

In a contentious meeting held Monday night, the board voted 3-2 against adopting a four-day week, which district administrators hailed as a teacher recruitment tool. Approximately 20 teachers and administrators were in attendance at the meeting, which was held at the district's central office.

The meeting was called to order at 6:02 p.m with all board members present. The only item on the agenda was to consider the adoption of a four-day week.

Immediately after the roll was called, Stacey Husted, the board president, made a motion to pass the resolution. Board member Angie Price seconded the motion. But before the vote could be taken, board member Doug Hodges requested time to discuss the proposal.

Hodges asked Superintendent Rick Riggs a series of questions regarding the proposal, many of which were centered around protecting the pay of the district's support staff.

Under the proposed four-day week, custodians, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, and cafeteria workers would have lost pay unless the district raised their salaries to compensate for the decreased number of working days.

Hodges asked Riggs, “Is there anything in writing that is firm that, on the support staff, that they won't lose anything financially?”

Riggs responded, “No.”

“We can't gift them or just give them money,” Riggs said. “[Their pay] depends on the job that they do.”

Riggs suggested that some of the employees' hours could be reconfigured to prevent pay cuts. But he added that the adjustment of support staff pay will be different at each school site, leaving the task up to school principals.

“At [the high school], paraprofessionals have an hour off for lunch, and [the principal] is talking about giving them 30 minutes off for lunch,” said Riggs. “It depends on the building, how they're going to work this out. Now the intent for the principals is that nobody will lose any pay. But, they're paras.”

The district's cafeteria workers are employed by Keystone Foods, which contracts with the district to provide food services. Those employees, Riggs said, stood to lose 15 percent to 17 percent of their pay. If their pay were to be raised, the price of meals for the district's students may also have to be raised.

“To say that nobody would lose any money, I'm not going to tell you that,” Riggs said. “But that wouldn't be anybody's intent.”

Riggs later added, “I value everyone we got [sic].”

Hodges then asked what downsides a four-day week would have on the community. To that end, Riggs acknowledged that some families may be unable to afford daycare for children. He also added that, even though school days would be extended, overall instructional time would be lost during a four-day week.

“Overall instruction time … there is a loss,” he said.

One of the measure's key selling points, Hodges said, was that a four-day week may improve teacher recruitment. But Riggs expressed doubt that a four-day week may bring in large pools of applicants.

“As far as teacher recruitment, I talked to some young lady the other day who said, 'You know, I'm not coming to a school that is in a four-day week because colleges will tell us that is bad.' Now, whether they would actually change their minds or not, I don't know,” he said.

Ultimately, the board voted 3-2 against the proposal. Board members Kathleen Brown, Phil Green, and Hodges voted against the measure, while Husted and Prince voted for it.

After the vote was taken, discussion about other ways to recruit teachers took center stage.

Brown said the district's teacher recruitment problems have less to do with pay or a four-day week and more to do with respect from administrators.

“I talked to a teacher Friday that I just happened to run into who said she is leaving … because of a lack of respect. She hasn't been listened to, and she's tired of fighting the system. She's absolutely tired of it. … She said it's not about the money, it's not about a four-day week, it's because she is tired of the system,” Brown said.

Brown said a four day week will not solve the district's problems because it is a “band-aid.”

“We used to have a system where teachers wanted to stay … . It starts from the top down. It starts with the superintendent having respect, and it starts with us showing teachers dignity and respect. It starts with building principals showing them dignity and respect. If we don't do that, our teachers aren't going to stay,” Brown said.

Green said that the district should look into giving sign-on bonuses to new teachers, and he suggested using the district's carryover funds to do that.

Husted repeatedly interrupted Green and Brown, saying the district doesn't have money in carryover. But Green countered her point, saying that the district has $500,000 in carryover for this year alone.

“We can afford to pay our teachers as we value them,” Green said. “Do we need $2 million in carryover? Can we afford to give some teachers some pay raises? You bet we can. It's up to us to do it, and it's high time we do it. Period”

The meeting was adjourned shortly after.