News and Tribune

June 4, 2014

Greater Clark teachers take issue with attendance

Board hears how it could impact evaluations

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Several teachers voiced frustrations with a Greater Clark employee attendance policy at the district’s board of trustees meeting Tuesday.

Five teachers — at least some of whom are members of the Greater Clark Education Association — said because of the way their evaluations are structured, the district could penalize them for taking off days outlined in their union contract.

“This attendance policy needs to go back to the table and be looked at,” Nick Wiese, one of the teachers, said. “Employees with doctor’s notes should not be subject to disciplinary action and no one’s evaluation should be affected by days they received through collective bargaining.”

Teachers, through the policy that was adopted Aug. 6, 2013, get 12 paid excused absences every school year. But in their teacher evaluations, missing more than nine days of the school year could keep them from earning a highly effective rating in one of 23 categories.

The policy was strengthened by the board to cut down on teacher absences, but some of the teachers said it prevents them from getting ratings they deserve on their evaluations.

Tina Tetzlaff-Wallis, another teacher, said that provision can affect a teacher’s job opportunities or salary increases.

“I expected to use personal time when I took this job, but being made to feel as though I’m doing something less than my best when I am still within my contractual days and being informed that I can still only be [graded as] effective is like telling an advanced student that a B is great,” Tetzlaff-Wallis said. “Why worry about that A?”

Superintendent Andrew Melin said principals would weigh certain circumstances, such as medical absences, professional development and family deaths, when counting the number of days missed in an evaluation. He also said attendance was one of 23 measures scored in teacher evaluations.

“Philosophically, we are very compassionate administratively in regard to our staff and issues that arise, whether it be a medical issue, a maternity situation, professional days or bereavement,” Melin said. “All these things are taken into consideration and are not being held against our teachers as it relates to the evaluation piece of this.”

He said he’s open to the idea of changing the policy and will meet with a committee today, June 5, to discuss the issue.

But he added that the current policy wasn’t completely top-down; he said the opinions of several employee groups were considered when it was drafted.

“Everything that we’ve done has not been on an island with just myself,” Melin said. “I’ve not done it, just made some decision arbitrarily. I’ve always involved other people in the discussion, that’s my job.”

Tony Hall, board member, said he wants Melin to consider the concerns voiced by teachers with the policy.

“After hearing the public comments tonight, I hope that, Dr. Melin, my request is that you never shut the door on our teachers and always have that line of negotiation open,” Hall said. “At some point, if we want to cross that bridge to making Greater Clark No. 1 in Indiana, I think you have to go hand-in-hand, administrators, superintendent, board and teachers.

“We’ve got to work together and win together as a team.”

ALSO AT THE MEETING

• Darin Ward was hired as Charlestown High School’s football coach. Ward comes most recently from Corydon High School.

• The board purchased seven used buses for $495,700. Tom Dykiel, chief financial officer, said they were less expensive and would help get their fleet of special needs buses standardized with air conditioning and chair lifts. The board also approved the purchase of new radio systems and video cameras for buses.