Decrease in staff absences came at a cost

To the editor:

Mike Wells, the departing superintendent of the Mt. Pleasant schools, has stated that he is proud of what he has accomplished in his two years here. In his list of ?accomplishments,? he includes his success in increasing staff attendance. As evidence, he cites data that show decreases in teacher absences and substitute pay. As is often the case when statistics are used to prove a point, there is more to the story than the numbers might indicate.

Many of the ?absences? in the 2012-13 school year were due to teachers? involvement on various committees which met during the school day, or their attendance at training sessions at the AEA or other sites, frequently at the request of school administrators. When Dr. Wells came the next year, these meetings were either eliminated or scheduled outside the school day.

The master contract between the teachers and the school district guarantees every teacher a certain number of days of paid leave, (sick, personal, bereavement, etc.) and specifies the conditions for using each type of leave. Dr. Wells also considers a teacher to be ?absent? if they are at a professional conference or at an off-campus activity with students, such as a math bee. In other words, a teacher is deemed ?absent? even when they are working.

Any decrease in staff absences and the resulting savings in substitute pay came at a great cost. The superintendent?s disregard for the terms of the master contract, and his harassment of staff concerning attendance, created a huge wall of contention between him and the people he was hired to lead. The district even lost some valuable staff members who were forced to choose between their jobs and their family commitments.

The attendance mandate was just one of many actions taken by Dr. Wells that led to distrust and strife between him and the staff. I hope the board will choose his successor carefully and wisely. Our district needs a true leader, one who will encourage and inspire the staff to strive for excellence.

Diana Juntunen

Mt. Pleasant