Teachers ask board to reconsider 4-day week
Brad Thomas has two side jobs and is looking for a third on top of his primary career as a Central High School teacher.
Like all employees in the district, Thomas has lost five days of pay over the last three years and taken on additional tasks and students as the district trimmed $28.6 million from its budget. He worries another $2 million to $4 million in budget cuts this fall will impact his classroom and his colleagues yet again.
Thomas was among eight teachers and parents who asked the School Board on Tuesday night to reconsider the board’s decision to eliminate a four-day school week from the list of potential money-saving ideas for 2012–13.
“It’s OK to change your mind about something on deeper reflection,” Thomas told the board.
School Board members dismissed the idea of a four-day week during a March 27 meeting after the district learned it would have to cut up to $4 million instead of the $5 million to $8 million originally anticipated. Although the board has less to cut, Mount Garfield Middle School teacher Heather O’Brien said pay cuts, losing teachers through attrition and contract nonrenewals, and having less help in the classroom has her questioning her profession for the first time. Without $1.5 million to $2 million in savings from a four-day week, she worries the only options left are more salary cuts and more lost jobs.
“There is a third option: reopen discussions of a four-day school week,” she said.
A four-day week would increase instructional time by lengthening the school day and eliminating early release on Wednesdays. Extra time with students is why some teachers favored the option over other, unknown possibilities, Mesa Valley Education Association President Jim Smyth said.
“I’m still frustrated we didn’t go to a four-day week,” Smyth told The Daily Sentinel.
School Board President Greg Mikolai said Wednesday he has no plans to revisit a four-day-week scenario for 2012–13. He said part of the reason the board decided not to adopt a four-day week in March was there would be less than five months to prepare for the new schedule. Now, with less than four months until the start of the 2012–13 school year, he said the change would be even harder to make.
Mikolai said he understands staff members’ concerns, but he said he does not believe this year’s round of cuts will affect classrooms as much as last year’s cuts. He acknowledged the popularity of four-day weeks in recent polls and forums but said the board believed the change was unnecessary for the coming school year.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t go to a four-day week next year if we start having problems with the budget again. We’ve pretty much got nothing left” to trim, he said.