By Steve Gunn
Board members voted unanimously Wednesday to have school administrators investigate a recurring pattern of teacher absences on Fridays, Monday and professional development days, which leads to annual increases in the amount of money spent on substitute teachers.
The Torrington Education Association – the local teachers union – will also participate in the investigation. The original idea was to hire a private investigator to look into the board’s concerns, but money was not available to hire one, according to RegisterCitizen.com.
School board Chairman Ken Traub said there is no existing language in any contracts to deal with teachers who persistently abuse sick days. He said he hopes the investigation will lead to some type of disciplinary procedure.
“(For) 10 years, the Board of Education has seen this pattern,” said school board member Paul Cavagnero, who has been pushing for the investigation. “This has been discussed year in and year out since I’ve been on the board. Every year budget costs for substitute teachers are questioned, and we ask, ‘Why are we spending so much on substitute teachers?’ The personnel committee and the Board of Education are upset about it.
“The board has made it very clear that if you’re sick by all means for your sake and the safety of your children take the day off. But if there is a pattern and the pattern indicates that it’s the same group of people that are consistently getting sick on a Friday or a Monday, who are consistently taking off professional development days for which the board of education is spending taxpayer money to help them become better teachers, then it becomes an issue.”
Teacher union contracts throughout the nation are larded with a high number of paid sick and personal days, sometimes as many as 15-18 in a 180-day school year. Teachers frequently force districts to spend big bucks for substitutes to cover their absences every year, or allow their unused sick days to accumulate from year-to-year so they can cash them in at the prescribed time.
Reimbursement for unused sick and personal days is frequently a six-figure expense for school districts across the nation.