The School Board approved a budget for the FY2013 school year on Mar. 28, which included an item that surprised many, an additional half hour added to teachers’ seven-hour work day. So, while teachers received the step increase they had sought, they will also be working a longer contractual day.
Prince William Education Association President Bonnie Klakowicz is not celebrating these developments. According to Klakowicz, the board had wanted to change to a 7.5 hour day since Steven L. Walts became superintendent in 2005. The PWEA held a protest against the proposed addition at that time.
However, Klakowicz was not aware the issue was currently on the Board’s radar until the amendment was announced at the Mar. 28 School Board meeting by Chairman At-Large Milton Johns.
This item coupled with its announcement prompted the PWEA to respond.
“Now the 7.5 hour day has been adopted by the School Board without an opportunity to ask questions or make public comments,” the PWEA said in a flier to members.
The PWEA questions how the amendment will affect accrued sick leave, what the additional cost would be for the schools and how it might affect employee morale. It also asks why did the School Board “sneak” in the extended time, and asked if the measure was “retaliation for employees participating in the budget process.”
Many teachers who have been proactive in lobbying for a step increase are taking issue with the extended work day, and how it was presented by the board.
“It was not discussed. It was not introduced. It was snuck in,” said PWEA member and Bull Run Middle School civics teacher Riley O’Casey.
O’Casey said the response to the amendment varies at her school from teachers who are furious to those who think it is of little consequence, since teachers typically spend extra hours at school grading, conferencing, advising clubs or offering students extra help after school.
However, Klakowicz believes the issue is significant. She said it may be a response to the recent work to rule movement. Klakowicz said it could also allow principals to assign unpaid clubs, activities and duties to teachers during that additional half hour.
Politically active teachers who are participating in the work to rule movement distributed promotional fliers entitled “Pay Raise or Pay Cut? You Decide” at the Mar. 29 Board of County Supervisors meeting.
The flier stated that an additional 30 minutes a day would amount to 14 additional days of work per year. This, the literature asserted, would mean a pay decrease of approximately $1.85 per hour even after the step increase.
“Fair? NO. Sneaky? YES. Unethical? You Decide. Be sure to thank the Prince William County School Board,” the flier stated, and included the email addresses of School Board members.
While the budget was approved 4-3 by School Board, Brentsville representative Gil Trenum voted against it along with two other representatives.
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