PWC School Board Reconsiders Length of Teacher Work Day

| January 7, 2016 | 0 Comments | Education
Potomac District School Board Representative Justin Wilk. Photo Courtesy of Prince William County Schools

Potomac District School Board Representative Justin Wilk. Photo Courtesy of Prince William County Schools

At the request of Potomac Representative Justin Wilk, the new Prince William School Board reconsidered the length of the teacher workday Wednesday night, sparking conversation about improving teacher morale.

In 2012, the school board added 30 minutes to the teacher workday making it 7.5 hours at the behest of former Chairman At-large Milt Johns, who combined that action with a vote on increasing salaries for educators.

At the time of the vote, Wilk opposed adding the additional half hour and publicly criticized Board members for approving the measure without the benefit of discussion or study.

Wilk also said the decision hurt teacher morale and was perhaps a “punitive” response toward teachers who actively campaigned for a pay increase and instituted a work-to-rule.

During “Board Matters,” he requested that the current Board enter into a discussion of the matter, which ultimately led to members deciding to formally study repealing the 2012 decision and for looking for ways to boost teacher morale.

Board members said they recognize that most teachers work beyond their required hours anyway; therefore, the contracted extra half hour was unnecessary.

Occoquan School Board Representative Lillie Jessie said she understood how a teacher could take umbrage at the added time.

“I’m a 6 a.m. person…, but if you told me that because you are coming in at six, I am going to require you to come in at six, that is a little bit different,” Jessie said.

Agreeing that the purpose of any new action should be to bolster teacher morale, she questioned if teachers would prefer fewer hours or additional compensation. She even suggested that perhaps teachers should be compensated for the additional hours they had served since 2012.

During the discussion, Superintendent Dr. Steven L. Walts provided data showing that all neighboring districts, except Loudoun County, had 7.5-hour workdays.

However, Chairman At-Large Ryan Sawyers said it should be noted that teachers in the other districts are also making more money than those in Prince William County.

“A function of time, when it comes to professionalism, is pay. I’m willing to bet that if we caught up with some of these districts in pay, the 7.5 would go over just fine,” Sawyer said. His statement was met with applause from audience.

Sawyers also said that beyond money, people want respect.

“There are many, many studies as well that [show] people will stay in jobs longer…when they feel they are respected; they feel they have decision-making power,” he said.

Coles District Representative Willie Deutsch said perhaps a better way to improve morale is to help teachers in other areas, such as lessening their workload.

“We could do arguably even a lot more, morale wise, if we reevaluate, [additional workload] data collection requirements, etc., that are really bogging down their ability to teach,” Deutsch said.

Brentsville District Representative Gil Trenum said that the fact that Prince William teachers feel overworked is partly a result of oversized classrooms. He said every year he asks if there is something the Board can do to “take something off the teachers’ plates,” but he says he never gets a concrete answer.

Gainesville Representative Alyson Satterwhite and Woodbridge Representative Loree Williams both endorsed developing a survey to hear from teachers and constituents.

Wilk said he was pleased with that evening’s discussion and the Board plans to revisit the issue at a future meeting.

During the meeting’s “Citizen’s Time,” several speakers endorsed the returning of the half hour.

© 2016, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Education

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