Update: Schools close due to teacher rally
by The Press and Standard | May 2, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: May 1, 2019 at 11:04 am
Faced with approximately 40 percent of its classroom teachers requesting leave on May 1, the Colleton County School District administrators decided to close schools.
At a special board meeting April 30, school members voted to waive scheduling another school day to make up.
Dr. Franklin Foster told board members that administrators had come up with two options for Wednesday’s closing. The path toward scheduling a makeup day was difficult, Foster told the board, because the school district had only about a month before the end of the school year.
The option to schedule a makeup day was a complex five-step process at the end of the school year that would result in an extended school year.
Board members, without objection, went with the option that waived the makeup day, a move allowed by the South Carolina Department of Education.
Based on questioning by board member William Bowman, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Cliff Warren reported that the school district has a total 305 classroom teachers. A total of 172 teachers filed to take May 1 as a personal day; the teaching contracts give teachers two personal days a year.
Warren added that the school district had a list of 45-50 substitute teachers that could be routinely counted on to fill vacancies.
It was pointed out that not all those requesting leave were planning on attending the “All Out May 1” teacher rally in Columbia. Some teachers were also scheduled to be off for things like doctor’s appointments, to attend professional development and other teaching-related programs.
Board member Sharon Witkin wondered if there was a way available to determine how many teachers attended the Columbia rally. It was suggested that the school district would not attempt to collect that information, but a visit to the Facebook pages of local teachers would probably be a good indicator of local participation in the rally.
Bowman said that based on the number of teachers out of the classroom, the school district had no choice by close the schools. The school district’s daily operation figures for salaries and fringe benefits for all employees, not just classroom teachers, is $183,000.
Thousands of teachers from throughout South Carolina were expected to go to Columbia for the rally put together by SC for Ed, a teacher advocacy group. The S.C. Education Association is also involved in the daylong rally that began at the S.C. Department of Education’s building. S.C. Education Superintendent Molly Spearman won’t be on hand for the rally. Spearman and Gov. Henry McMaster voiced opposition to the teachers’ leaving the classroom to make their voices heard about the state of education in South Carolina.
In early February, McMaster, Spearman joined S.C. House and Senate officials to voice support of a massive overhaul of the state’s education system.
They promised in February that the bill would be passed and signed into law before this year’s legislative session ended.
Officials of the S.C. Senate say the proposed legislation won’t be voted on before the end of the legislative session on May 9. Senate officials plan to bring the legislation back to the table next January. One of the factors in the delay, according to senate officials, is teacher complaints that they were not been given a voice in the development of the legislation.
The large number of teachers seeking to attend the “All Out May 1,” according to a school district news release issued April 29, “will leave all of our schools with a profound shortage of teachers that our current pool of trained substitutes cannot fill.
“Because of the number of planned teacher absences, we believe that it will be difficult to provide a secure classroom environment for our students Wednesday. We have decided it would be prudent to close our schools.”
The members of the Colleton County School Board had already planned to conduct a budget work session with School Superintendent Dr. Franklin Foster and Finance Director Emily Temple to discuss the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget Tuesday at 6 p.m.
To take action on a makeup day for the May 1 closing, a special board meeting was set for Tuesday April 30 at 5 p.m.
After the decision on the makeup day, the board went into executive session to discuss employment issues. When they ended the executive session, the budget work session began.