Mineola school district discusses teachers’ attendance

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Mineola school district discusses teachers’ attendance

Mineola school teachers averaged 10.2 days of absences in the last school year, a school administrator’s report found.

Teachers’ absences are an issue in ongoing negotiations between the school district and the teachers’ union over a new contract.

Edward Escobar, the assistant superintendent for human resources, presented his report about teachers’ attendance at the Mineola school board meeting on Thursday.

He prepared the report at the request of Schools Superintendent Michael Nagler.

“We typically don’t make a report about teacher data but in light of negotiations, one of the issues we are dealing with in our negotiations is teachers’ attendance,” Nagler said. “It’s problematic everywhere, I personally believe it’s a problem in our district…”

Nagler said that since he has a bias, he asked Escobar to compile a report based on district data.

In December, the teachers’ union rejected the new contract proposed by the district. The deal proposed increased annual raises, increased health insurance contributions by the teachers and cuts to the number of sick and personal days to 12 from 20 to fit the district’s budgetary restrictions.

The point of contention for the teachers’ union was the reduction of the number of sick and personal days.

Teachers have up to 20 sick days available to use every year. Five of these days can be used in the event that there is a death in the family and another five are “free.” The teachers lose the latter five if they are not used. The other sick days are deducted from their “sick bank,” which can have a maximum of 200 days over a teacher’s career.

Escobar’s report found that the 280 Mineola teachers took a total of 2,874.5 days off, for an average of 10.2 days for the past school year. After removing 19 teachers who each had over 21 absences, “we are left with 261 teachers who took 1,960.5 days for an average of 7.5 days off,” Escobar said.

His report also looked at days off in light of the number of years a teacher has been teaching. He found that teachers who had taught for more years tended to take more days off.

“Sixteen untenured teachers and six tenured teachers took no days off, so 22 total,” Escobar said. Teachers become tenured after their fourth year. There are about 50 untenured teachers in the Mineola school district, according to Escobar’s report. Of that 50, 48 took fewer than three personal and family days, Escobar added.

Nagler said he does not blame the teachers but the “system” they were presented with.  “It’s really human nature, this is the system presented to me, I’m going to utilize those days first, and you have evidence of that,” he said.

“In this case, it’s not the people, I think it’s like everything else, you have a couple of people that abuse the situation but I think this is the system that is in place,” Nagler said.  “And if you remove this temptation to take days that you use or lose, I think you will get better attendance.”

Efforts to reach the teachers’ union for comment were unavailing.

It would be unacceptable if your child was not in school for eight days. I found it unacceptable that that’s the average of our teachers,” Nagler added. He said he hoped to find a solution but believes that one cannot be found if both sides disagreed.

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