Friday, July 30, 2010

Waivers for minimum school year.

The July 26, 2010 meeting of the Worthington Board of Education had an agenda item where the board requested a waiver from the Ohio Department of Education for the ability to hold classes at the middle schools for 177 days next year, rather than the 178 days required by the Ohio Revised Code (ORC 3313.48). I relunctantly voted with the majority to request the waiver after hearing from three of our middle school principals.

Why did we need to request a waiver? Ohio law requires school to be in session for 182 days but also specifies that up to 4 half days (or two full days) can be used for PTA conferences and record keeping, thus reducing the minimum to 180 days. The ORC further specifies that an additional 2 days can be used for teacher's professional development, thus reducing the minimum under Ohio law to 178 days.
The contract with the Worthington Education Association specifies that the teacher work year is "no more than 185 days". It further specifies the following time where classes are not in session:

2 days at the beginning of the year for district and building activities and teacher planning
2 days (one each) at the end of the 2nd and 4th reporting periods

There are 3 additional days that are not accounted for in the contract, one for professional development and two for PTA conferences. That leaves the minimum 178 days for student contact time.

The argument made by the middle school principals is that the 7 days already  included in the teacher contract but without classes being in session were not sufficient for the specific professional development activities required to assure the success of our middle school restructure. They further stated that they could not request the teachers attend sessions outside of the contract year (even if we paid them) and therefore, the only alternative was to request the waiver and provide an eighth day under the contract without student contact.

At the meeting, I asked if teachers could possibly use the Professional Collaboration Time that is already specified in the contract for this purpose, but again, that time was already spoken for.

I made the comment that American kids spend less time in school than most other developed countries. Here is the data:

Both President Obama and Governor Strickland have argued for a longer school year, however, most teachers unions will not agree to this without additional compensation and federal, state and school district budgets would not be able to absorb this additional cost. My objection to the waiver is that we make a bad situation worse by further shortening the school year.

Ultimately, our board did approve the waiver. While I had reservations, the unanimous backing of our middle school principals and our superintendent carry a lot of weight, but in the future, I'm hoping that we can work on other ways of allowing teachers the time they need to analyze student data without detracting from student contact time and within the constraints placed upon us by union contracts or, if teachers consent, to add a day or two to the teacher work year to dedicate to activities such as this.


  1. I've witnessed (and provoked) this dialog a numbers of times:

    - "To fairly compare teacher pay to other jobs, one should multiply the teachers' pay by a factor something like 250/185 (ie 135%) to reflect the long summer vacation enjoyed by teachers"
    - "No no - teachers work during the summer too, preparing for the coming year and doing personal development. No proration factor is necessary"
    - "Okay, please teach summer school."
    - "You have to pay me extra to do that..."