Some Johnson County teachers have expressed anger and dismay at last week’s Buffalo Bulletin article about a report to the school board by business manager Tom Sarvey regarding teacher absenteeism.

 Some teachers have said that the headline was inflammatory, slanderous and intended to cause hurt and sell newspapers.

First, we are sorry for any hurt feelings that the article or headline may have caused.  While this was not our intent, we appreciate that teachers are passionate about their work. This said, the Bulletin accurately reported both the tenor and substance of Sarvey’s report. The headline precisely described his report to the board. 

While teachers have every right to be upset and question the veracity of the report, their collective ire is misplaced. If teachers want to express their grievances about the content of the report, they should appoint spokespeople to articulate their concerns at the next school board meeting. None have been willing to go on record with the newspaper to outline their concerns.

Teachers’ feelings aside, we were surprised that so few questions were asked after the report. It seems counterintuitive for teachers’ contracts to include 12 paid days off if the district is concerned that  teacher absenteeism adversely affects student performance (in addition to costing the district nearly 5% of its entire budget to hire substitute teachers.)

Further, if trustees and administrators want to reduce absenteeism, there are several other factors that are 100% within their control. Teacher training and professional development could be held on days when students are not in school. Sports and activities could be scheduled to minimize absences by students, coaches and advisers, including scheduling fewer contests in any given season.

Additionally, if having qualified teachers teaching in classrooms is of paramount importance, then the district may want to consider whether teachers should even be hired to fill coaching or activity advisory positions. While it is doubtful that there would be enough qualified people to fill these positions, it’s time for a reckoning about how to best balance the benefits that sports and activities provide students against  the costs of teacher absenteeism.

This newspaper is not qualified to make these decisions on behalf of what is best for our kids. Thankfully we have paid school administrators and an elected school board to have these sometimes uncomfortable discussions. We hope in the weeks and months to come that these individuals will come to some consensus and utilize the tools at their disposal to ensure that our kids get the best education possible.


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