Cheryl Buzard award

UNION SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER Cheryl Buzard (third from left) was presented last week with a certificate from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, adding her to the PSBA Honor Roll of School Board Service for her 12 years on the board. Buzard’s term ends this month. She is pictured with fellow school board members (from left to right) Brade Guntrum, Mark Rummel, Erick Shick, Terry Rush and Mike Graham.

RIMERSBURG – Issues relating to hundreds of hours of unused compensation time accumulated by Union School District teachers were presented by Union School Board members at their regular meeting last week.

Representing the teachers, Jake Weckerly told board members that the comp time issue has been brewing for several years, but recently came to a head when staff was alerted that they would no longer be able to use comp time to leave work early prior to holiday breaks.

Saying that the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter early dismissals were some of the only times teachers could use significant chunks of the comp time they earned, Weckerly explained that the teachers may have no choice but to request payment for the comp time instead.

“We don’t want to go that route,” he said, but added that even before the holiday time was taken away, teachers in all three Union schools were already leaving hundreds of hours on the table at the end of each school year.

According to information Weckerly supplied to the school board, Rimersburg Elementary School teachers ended the 2014-15 school year with 104 hours left over, followed by 72 hours at the end of the 2015-16 school year and 81 hours at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

Those comp time hours do not carry over to the next school year, he said, and are lost.

At Sligo Elementary School, Weckerly said teachers lost 174 hours in 2014-15, and 153 hours in each of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

At the high school, teachers lost approximately 62 hours in each of the last two school years.

The comp time, Wecklery explained to the school board, is built up from extra meetings called by the district’s administration, as well as parent-teacher meetings and other duties that have been added to their schedules, such as early bus and hall monitoring duties. He emphasized that comp time is not built up by teachers who regularly stay after school to work on lesson plans or to check papers, or by those coming in to work in the summer to get their classrooms ready.

“That’s time that we give to the district,” he said.

But as for the comp time, Wecklery told the board that if the teachers had no opportunities to use the bulk of their compensation hours, they would instead request the per diem wage of $35 per hour as per the union contract.

If that takes place, Wecklery said, the teachers at all three schools would have accumulated more than $9,700 so far this year.

Weckerly requested that the district allow teachers to use comp time for the holiday early dismissals this year, while working with the district to create a new comp time policy for future years.

Another issue, he said, is that teachers were recently informed that they would no longer receive the two-hour delays that students get on days of winter weather, and would have to report to school at their normal time. In some past years, he said, teachers were allowed to use comp time to come in later when the roads are bad.

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching quickly, Weckerly asked for quick action on the matter.

“We’re kind of up against the clock,” he said, noting that the teachers like having the comp time and that it saved the district money when it came to substitute teachers. He explained that instead of taking off a full or a half day for appointments, many teachers plan their appointments so that they can use a few minutes of comp time at the end of the school day, thus eliminating the need to pay a substitute teacher.

Board member Cheryl Buzard, attending her final meeting on the school board before her term ends next month, said that eliminating the early holiday dismissals also impact students and their parents. She also said there is nothing in the teachers’ contract about comp time, but that the contract requires the district to pay the teachers for extra time that they work. She said that by not paying the teachers, the district was in violation of the contract.

“We don’t want this to be a big issue, but it has gotten there,” Weckerly said, noting that the administration’s recent decisions to limit comp time use was “severely effecting morale” among the staff.

When asked by the board, Weckerly said the teachers had not taken the issue to the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) because the teachers were not looking for money, but just an opportunity to use most of their comp time.

“You’re giving up family time, and that’s more valuable than money,” Buzard said.

“Yes, but we love our jobs,” Weckerly said, noting the dedication of the teaching staff and that the extra meetings and other time put in has helped improve the schools.

“We can’t expect you to give up that time and not compensate you for it,” Buzard concluded.

No action was taken on the matter.

Other Business

• Newly elected school board member Mark Rummel took the oath of office a month early to fill the remaining weeks on the term of former board member Ray Scott, who resigned from the board last month.

• Attending her final school board meeting, Buzard was presented with a certificate from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association for her 12 years of service.

• Permission was granted for the varsity baseball team to hold a youth baseball clinic at the high school on Saturday, March 31.

• William Richter was hired as the head junior high boys basketball coach at a salary of $1,450.

• The school board’s December reorganization meeting and regular board meeting was changed to 6 p.m. on Dec. 7.

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