Monday, May 21, 2018
Education

Missed day causes dispute for teacher's union, superintendent

SPRING HILL — A man's decision to barricade himself inside his house near Spring Hill Elementary School last month has sparked another standoff of sorts, this time between Hernando superintendent Bryan Blavatt and the local teachers union.

Before dawn on Jan. 23, a 43-year-old man threatened to harm himself and any law enforcement officers who came to his house on Parnell Avenue, just a block west of the campus. The Sheriff's Office blocked off the area, and Blavatt made the decision to cancel the entire school day for students and employees.

The school's 54 teachers were paid for the day. Now, the superintendent wants teachers to make up that time, a move the union says would violate its contract.

"The guiding force for me is, I can't in good conscience as a custodian of the school district pay someone who doesn't work," Blavatt told the School Board at its meeting Tuesday night.

The issue came up as the board considered a vote to amend the school calendar for Spring Hill Elementary students, allowing them to attend 179 days this year instead of 180. The state sets a minimum number of student instruction hours. But even with the lost day, students will get enough teaching time.

The teacher contract is for 197 days, however, so Blavatt maintains the district can require them to make up the missed day.

Wrong, the head of the teachers union told the board.

Teachers should have been directed that day to show up at another school campus, where they could have helped out or tackled some of their own work, Vitalo said.

Instead, they were told to stay home. With that, the district surrendered its right to require teachers to work another day, Vitalo said.

"These employees, they didn't get on an airplane to go to Vegas for the day; they didn't go to the beach for the day," he said. "They stayed home working."

Blavatt was not swayed.

"There's no provision in any of our management agreements for people to be paid to work at home, so if they weren't physically present (at school), they weren't working," he said.

The teachers have been given several options to make up the days. One is to report to school on April 6, which is Good Friday, when teachers and students are scheduled to be off.

Teachers who don't want to work that day can use a personal day or accumulated flex time.

Not mentioned Tuesday night is another option already offered to teachers, Heather Martin, the district's executive director of business services, told the Times on Wednesday: Teachers can accumulate and document flex time between now and April 6.

"We know our teachers are working above and beyond," Martin said. "It's not about sticking them for the 73/4 hours. It's about being fair to all employees."

That's still a contract violation by requiring them to work extra hours, Vitalo said.

The board ultimately voted to table the matter to give its attorney time to review applicable laws and the teacher contract. The board won't vote on the makeup day, but can give Blavatt direction on how to proceed, Martin said.

Vitalo said the union is prepared to file a grievance with the School Board, which could lead to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.

The issue has been a source of confusion and frustration for Spring Hill's teachers, said Melinda Barrett, a third-grade teacher and the union's building representative.

Few, if any, want to come in April 6 or burn a personal day. And while plenty of teachers stay late, it's not easy for others to accumulate flex time, she said.

The closing of a single school, though rare, highlights the need for a contingency plan, Barrett said.

"In a way," she said, "they're feeling more pressured to compensate for something the county office doesn't have set up."

The district, Martin said, is already working on it.

Comments
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Hooper: SEL lends a solution to the increasingly toxic world of kids

An incident recently arose between students at Jesuit High School and Academy of the Holy Names that involved allegations of cyberbullying, homophobia, misogyny and assault.It only involved a fraction of the students at two of Tampa’s most prestigiou...
Updated: 6 hours ago
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18
Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Before they could get away, we asked the top graduates at Pinellas County’s private schools to write a Twitter-length paragraph about what’s on their mind. We suggested they reflect on the past or the future, or talk about the people who helped them ...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

A Florida teacher was placed on administrative leave after school officials were told that he had students help him drown wild raccoons during class.A 14-second video published by CBS affiliate WKMG showed a group of students filling a tub of water u...
Published: 05/17/18