School board says no to teacher sabbaticals |

School board says no to teacher sabbaticals

Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY<In a rare split decision, the Summit School Board voted Wednesday against budgeting money for teacher sabbatical leaves.School board members voted 4-3 to not pay for teachers1 salaries and benefits if they aren1t at work in the schools. The school district1s master contract with teachers requires board members consider paying for sabbaticals for qualified teachers and outlines an evaluation process. One teacher applied to take a sabbatical next year.The school district and the teachers association currently are negotiating a new contract. Summit County Education Association member Joel Hecht said after the sabbatical vote he believes the decision would disappoint many teachers.The teachers1 contract gives faculty with seven years1 experience in the district the opportunity to apply for a sabbatical. If funding is available, the teacher seeking leave presents a proposal to a selection committee of teachers and administrators, with final approval resting on the school board. Sabbaticals typically allow teachers to receive advanced training, which can be passed on to their co-workers. If the sabbatical is approved, the teacher is paid a percentage of their salary, including an adjustment for benefits.In weighing the decision, school board members estimated a sabbatical would cost about $25,000 to pay a teacher who is on leave, as well as additional money to hire a replacement. The school board members said they recognize the value of the experience for teachers, but they debated whether the school district is in a healthy enough financial position to pay for it.3I1m not comfortable allocating the money at this time, said Bill Pelham, who voted against funding sabbaticals.3I have to ask, is that the best use of $25,000 with all the programs we1ve already said we want to fund? said board president Jennifer Brauns. 3I don1t think we1re there right now.Board members Jim Lenzotti and Jay Brunvand also voted against the funding request.The school board funded a sabbatical four years ago, but the teacher never came back to work. The contract section that allows for the sabbaticals also contains a provision that, if a teacher does not return from the leave, he or she must repay the money. In the case of the last sabbatical, the school board did not pursue a legal collections procedure because the teacher was out of the country.School board members who voted to fund sabbaticals said it is important for teachers, who often don1t get enough professional development experiences.3You can1t put a price on morale, board member Marshall Denkinger said. 3If you do, it1s costly. This is in the contract, and it stimulates them professionally. I think we can find a way to do this.Board members Garrett Sullivan and Kristy Price gave their approval to fund sabbaticals, as well.The board1s decision also was complicated after it learned who had submitted an application for a sabbatical. The board first considered the sabbatical issue at its Feb. 27 meeting. At that time, Superinten-dent Wes Smith kept the issue anonymous, asking board members to make their decision based on budget sense and not personal or educational reasons. Before Wednesday1s board meeting, school psychologist Robin Ackerman sent board members a letter explaining how she wanted to use the experience to develop competency in Spanish literacy. English as a Second Language (ESL) students can not always be quickly identified and have their needs addressed because there are no Spanish-speaking special education teachers in the school district.Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or

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