Nevis Board dismisses longer school day grievance
The Nevis School Board's grievance committee, seizing on a technicality of a grievance filed on prospective actions, has denied the teachers' objection to increasing the school day by 22 minutes.
The committee of Ed Becker, Sherm Anderson and Marv Vredenburg determined that "a grievance cannot exist at this time as no member of the Nevis Federation of Teachers has been affected by the action of the board.
"The board's decision to extend the student day is a sound educational decision made in the best interests of our students and will be in place for the 2009-10 school year and beyond," a memo to the board states.
The committee noted language in the contract "is very clear in giving the district authority to require staff to 'be on duty in their classroom 30 minutes before students start school in the morning and shall remain available to students for 35 minutes after class.'''
Superintendent Steve Rassier said this language is somewhat unique to the district. But the school's attorney advised, "past practice cannot contradict clear language."
"We firmly believe that this language is very clear in giving the board authority to unilaterally extend the teacher work day when the student day is extended," the memo states.
"However, the benefits that could be received in a favorable decision for the board do not outweigh the expense of an arbitration case that could stretch into next year. A past practice can be ended with prior notice, as long as the contract contains clear language, as it does in Article XI."
Rassier noted a concern was staff having less time after school to work with students or meet with parents, but this too is covered in the contract.
"For parent-teacher meetings, i.e. Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings, parental concerns, etc., teachers will be available as necessary," the contract states.
"We believe that our staff has been exemplary in meeting this section of our contract and will continue to be professional in meeting the educational needs of our students and their parents, guardians," the memo states.
The committee is recommending the "teacher work day remain the same as last year," with the exception of the last working day of the week when teachers may depart 15 minutes after classes end for the day.
But this comes with a caveat: "In the future these hours may change as the educational needs of the district change."
In other action, the board:
-Reviewed Nevis' ACT test scores, the recent graduating class scoring at or above the state average and above national averages.
Principal Jodi Sandmeyer noted this is the first year since 2004 Nevis students have achieved scores at or above the state average. Twenty-three students completed the test, 56 percent of the class.
Nevis seniors scored an average of 22.5 on the English portion of the test with the state and national averages, respectively, 22 and 20.6.
In math, Nevis students earned an average test score of 22.7, on par with the state's 22.7 and above the national average of 21.
Nevis' reading score was 23.7, with 23.1 and 21.4, respectively. The science score was an average of 22.7, compared with the state average of 22.6 and the national 20.9.
The seniors' composite score was 23, compared with the state average of 22.7 and the national 21.1.
-Accepted the resignation of school board member Walter Bromenschenkel, who is relocating out of state. The school will advertise for a replacement.
-Will compile a strategy to address the H1N1 virus, educating parents and students on the preventive measures and actions to take if infected.
"If kids are sick, they will go home," Rassier said. Students will be asked to remain home until 24 hours after the fever has abated.
The district will discourage "perfect attendance" this year, Rassier said.
School will not close unless a large number of students and staff are sick, he said.
-Will request proposals to upgrade or replace the school's mechanical ventilation system as a means to upgrade indoor air quality and address energy usage.
Proposals will be accepted until Monday, Sept. 14.
-Accepted the resignation of Linda Nicklason who was on a leave of absence.
-Set a truth in taxation hearing for Dec. 21.
-Reported the completion of the handicap entrance to the school has been delayed.
-Learned there has been no staff turnover this year.
-Approved direct payroll deposit for all district employees beginning Sept. 15.
Two employees had objected to the move to go "paperless," which Rassier pointed out saves the district time and money.