LRSD Instructor, Superintendent in dispute over the day – Arkansas Online | Team Cansler

Little Rock school district administrators and teacher leaders disagree on how long teachers should work on their campus, be it 7.5 hours plus a duty-free 30-minute lunch or the current practice of just over six hours.

Superintendent Jermall Wright said last week the dispute unfolded when teachers filed a multi-point complaint last month alleging that school leaders had violated district policies. Five of the nine reported violations involved on-campus hours of work, Wright said.

Teachers claimed they are not receiving their required individual planning logs, he said. They also said they are required to report to work 30 minutes before students arrive and leave no sooner than 30 minutes after students leave — contrary to what the district’s human resource policy manual says.

Another complaint says elementary school teachers are required to attend meetings of the professional learning community for more than 60 minutes a week, which is time for teacher collaboration. And teachers are not allowed a 30-minute duty-free lunch break and a 15-minute paid break.

“When I looked at the violations… and then I looked at the teachers’ work day, which is currently 6 hours and 15 minutes for primary school and 6 hours and 20 minutes for secondary school [teachers]there’s absolutely no way you can provide teachers with everything that’s needed in terms of individual planning time and everything to do with professional development and professional learning communities, faculty meetings, whatever, within that amount of time,” Wright said School board members who have done so have been implicated in the dispute.

“It’s just not possible,” he added.

The district’s human resources policy manual authorizes an eight-hour work day, counting the 30-minute lunch, but it also includes what Wright called a “very restrictive clause” that allows elementary school teachers to get to work five minutes before students arrive to report and walk five minutes after student discharge. Middle and high school teachers can check in 10 minutes before students arrive and leave five minutes after students leave.

He said the clause is unique among school systems in Arkansas and elsewhere.

“You can’t provide teachers with their individual planning logs every day and have time for other things that are needed,” like training sessions and teacher collaboration meetings, the superintendent said of the clause.

Wright, who has been the district’s superintendent since July, said he would like to see the “restrictive” language scrapped.

“Our proposal is to not do anything other than what is already outlined in the staff available workday policy manual,” he said, adding that teachers are not required to be on campus 7.5 hours each day .

He said he believes that principals and teachers at some district campuses have already worked out the time issues themselves, while other schools may have people adhering to or exercising the policy manual clause and “being out the door.” These schools and their principals are not flexible enough to carry out specific tasks, he said.

LaKeitha Austin, chair of the district’s certified personnel policy committee, told board members that the teachers share the concerns of the board, administrators and parents about the decline in student performance.

But Austin also listed all of the different types of meetings required of teachers — grade level, subject, academy planning, technology, and parent meetings — that are eroding teachers’ planning time. She said there has been a talent drain from educators in the district in recent years.

She called for all stakeholders to work together to address the issues. She asked the board to defer action on the teacher workday issue until district administrators and the Human Resources Committee can meet to develop resolutions on workday length and grievances.

“We want to show our community that people of good will can come together to find solutions that work for the good of all,” she said.

Kimberly Crutchfield, a teacher at Central High, told the board that a long day at work for the preschool teacher will take time away from her own children and ailing parents. She said teachers at her school worked well over 7.5 hours and teachers worked at home on school matters “because we want these Little Rock students to be great and successful.”

“When you rush us and say we’re hourly workers – that’s insulting. We will work beyond what we are called to do, but if you force us to do it, that’s an insult,” Crutchfield said.

Kelsey Bailey, the district’s chief deputy for operations, said the 65 hours recorded on the teachers’ twice-monthly paychecks are an indication that the staff are full-time employees and eligible for health care benefits under the federal Affordable Care Act and not necessarily the paid working hours.

Salary and benefits are based on 7.5 hours per day for certified employees, according to Bailey. Other county employees are eight-hour employees, he said.

School board member Ali Noland questioned whether Wright’s proposed change would require additional pay for teachers for additional hours worked.

Noland pointed out that state law requires teachers to have 200 minutes of planning time per week in no less than 40-minute increments during the class day. The law also states that the school day cannot be extended to make up for planning time without compensation to teachers.

Wright disagreed that since planning time would be included in the class day, additional payment would be required. Faculty meetings and teacher collaborations could be held after school, which can provide individual planning time as per state laws.

Noland said the 7.5-hour requirement was not demanded or expected by the teachers and therefore felt like a burden on the staff without additional compensation.

She warned that teachers who are parents would bear childcare costs for the extended periods of time that teachers are on campus.

The school board took no action on the issue last week, but it could surface again once the school board meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Board Chairman Greg Adams said the issue is very important, especially in light of the district’s placement ratings from the state, which were announced last week. About two dozen of the district’s schools received state grades of F and D.

“I believe it’s appropriate to ask people to work that late when our Human Resources Policy Manual says they can’t work more than 7.5 hours a day,” Adams said. “The fact that we didn’t do something like this confuses me. As a board member, I can’t go to the community and defend that. I can’t go to the community and say, ‘We’re so busy. Our policy is that we can ask people to work 7.5 hours a day, but we won’t do that. We’ll ask them to work an hour less and hope they do it differently.'”

Wright, the superintendent, said he doesn’t question the total amount of time and effort teachers put into getting their work done at school and at home.

“There’s nobody up here that doesn’t know how much time the teachers work past the school day,” Wright told the school board and teachers. “I can never forget all the time, all the preparation, all the meetings and all the things that have to be done on the backs of our teachers every single day.”

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