To The Editor:
On Thursday, Jan. 10, the Warren County R-III School District will meet to discuss and possibly vote on a plan to move our schools to a four-day week beginning as early as next fall.
There has been little said about the plan in print but it seems clear this has been in the works for some time. To date, what we know is limited to comments in two interviews printed over the past three weeks so I’d like to put the issue forward in terms only a teacher can love: solve for x.
The district has put forward three issues: teacher retention, attendance and budget concerns. I’ll take two items off the table; this community has supported budget increases and capital improvements, period. We just completed a $15 million project that included improvements at all schools. A few years back, another several million dollars added modern HVAC systems to the middle school and Daniel Boone Elementary along with ballfields and other improvements. Teacher pay has seen significant growth beyond inflation and several very well-paid administrative positions have been added. Our non-teaching staff has several positions that pay over $50,000 per year as published in this paper, making them some of the best compensated individuals in the district.
Saving 1 percent of budget dollars is not driving this plan. The idea that reducing the week by 20 percent will improve attendance by one or two points is too high a price to pay although there is some research that includes anecdotal improvement among high schoolers.
Facilitating jobs for teenagers can be better served with work-study programs on site and cooperative efforts with local employers and a closer relationship with the area community college recently announced.
So what exactly are we solving? What is the x that has the district moving in a direction that no other like-sized school has traveled? They say retention but we may also use the term more familiar in the workplace: employee satisfaction.
This paper printed an editorial that noted teacher turnover in the past few years is at a high point but what is not included is that teachers leave positions at one third the average rate of the overall workplace. The reasons behind turnover are varied but include burnout, better pay in a larger district and friction within the workplace.
More delicate issues may include resentment of top-heavy administration in a district that has shown almost no growth compared to 2007 enrollment and department director positions in the nonteaching ranks with an absence of department leadership positions for teachers to aspire to. Teachers do something that almost none of us do, they directly impact the lives of dozens of kids, hundreds or even thousands of kids over a career.
I don’t remember the names of my pediatrician, my local cop, not the postman, the milkman (yes I’m that old), the people on my paper route or my first boss. I remember the names of the teachers who taught me to love books, to spell these words without autocorrect, and yes, the math teachers and the philosophy that taught me how to solve for x.
Teachers are not like us, and not all of us can or even should teach. They are called to teach, and some, the lucky or most determined or most forgiving, may be blessed with 30 years or more of the kind of impact that the rest of us can only envy. Please attend the meeting on Jan. 10 and learn all you can about this plan. That’s what school is all about.