PLEASANT VALLEY — The ongoing debate about teachers doing extra work to accommodate students in the two different educational models simultaneously took up most of Monday’s school board workshop.
John Foley, president of Marion County’s American Federation of Teachers, was present at the meeting, and said splitting time between different models has been straining on teachers, who are not being compensated any more for the extra work it takes.
“My teachers, my members and my co-workers in general, they need relief,” Foley said. “It’s too much, trying to keep up with everything that we’re doing is just too much and we need relief.”
At the Oct. 5 board meeting, board member James Saunders asked School Superintendent Randy Farley if money that was to be designated to school improvement — about $10,000 each — could instead be used to compensate teachers who were putting in extra time teaching students in both blended learning and distance learning. He said Monday that these teachers are taking extra time at home to write lesson plans for each model.
“Many of our teachers are doing it from home because they are taking work home and doing it,” Saunders said.
Farley said he has heard differing comments from principals, with some saying their teachers have worked out the use of technology, while others haven’t. Instead of extra compensation for these troubles, some school employees, Farley said, have said they needed more time or resources.
“From what the principals have reported, some schools have things worked out at their school that they sort of feel comfortable with, and some do not,” Farley said. “A lot of what I see in here comment-wise, people are not always asking for money, some of it is asking for time.”
Saunders said he looked into how the school improvement funds could be used instead to pay teachers legally, and one solution was to pay contractors to help teach one of the learning models offered by the school system.
“I would like to see one teacher doing blended, one teacher doing distance, and that’s it,” Saunders said. “We need to take the strain off those who are working so hard. I would like to see us use the monies to do extra-curricular contracts.”
Foley said that while the school system was working on the re-entry plan for school this summer, he did not initially know teachers would be holding down students of both models at the same time. At this point, he believes having teachers only work on one model would be a potential solution for this problem.
“My opinion, is if we could have blended teachers and we could have distance teachers, that would relieve a lot of the pressure I think,” Foley said. “In the beginning, I was under the impression that we would have distance teachers and face-to-face teachers. I just never put it together that we would be doing both at the same time.”
The other board members agreed that teachers needed some kind of relief or aid, because of the difficulty they have been having with teaching this year.
“We have to help our teachers out, they’re doing two jobs, it’s so stressful,” said Board Member Richard Pellegrin.
Board Member Tom Dragich said he recognizes that several schools need the school improvement money for projects, including East Dale Elementary, which is in the process of remodeled and expanded. Dragich still said he would like to work on solving the teachers’ problems.
“We can’t touch the East Dale project, that has to go through,” Dragich said. “We’ve got to figure out ways that we can utilize what we have and solve some of these problems.”
Board Vice President Donna Costello said she doesn’t know if a one-time payment of extra money would be enough to truly assist struggling teachers.
“It’s not so much money, because money is not going to take away that stress, that overwhelmed feeling,” Costello said. “They’re not planning for just one class or teaching one class, they’re doing three lesson plans a day. They’re teaching 17 different classes a day.”
Foley said the extra pay could be a motivator for some teachers, but it is not a fix-all. However, he said several would probably appreciate a bonus, even a small one.
“Depending on how you use the money, I think it can be,” Foley said. “Some teachers would be happy to do the extra work outside of the school day if they were compensated for it. If that was a viable option, then that would take some of the load off some of the other teachers that wouldn’t need to do that anymore.”
After comments from the board members, the board went into executive session to talk about specific personnel problems in-depth. Board President Mary Jo Thomas said the board needs to work on the different learning models, but they are not sure what solution they will come to.
“We really do need to work on some things,” Thomas said. “What we hope would be the outcome isn’t the outcome that it appears that we are getting.”
Foley reinforced that many of the teachers he represents are strained from the extra work they are doing this year, and they need help immediately. Additionally, he said the biggest victims of this situation are the students, who are not getting the full attention of their teachers.
“Part of it is we’re exhausted trying to keep up with all of it,” Foley said. “The other part is the fact that we don’t feel like we’re doing the job our students deserve. We’re doing the best we can, but when you’re spread so thin, it’s difficult.”