Change in SAISD Schedule Policy Upsets Teachers, Pleases Principals

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Shelley Potter, San Antonio Alliance president, explains her lack of confidence and trust in the decision makers of SAISD.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Shelley Potter, San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel president, explains her lack of confidence and trust in the decision-makers of SAISD.

A decision by the San Antonio Independent School District board to give campus principals more authority and flexibility in setting staff work hours has become a source of controversy with educators on the eve of a new school year.

The school board voted 6-1 on Wednesday to amend the district’s work schedule policy, allowing the superintendent and principals to determine daily time schedules for all employees. Trustee James Howard cast the lone dissenting vote.

The policy revision neither affects nor changes school instructional hours or bell schedules. Principals plan to begin meeting with their faculty and staff members early next week to discuss the needs of their schools and collaborate on plans. Classes in SAISD begin Aug. 13.

But representatives of a local teachers association have said that changing the scheduling policy right before the start of the 2018-2019 school year creates turmoil and uncertainty for SAISD teachers.

Shelley Potter, president of San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, argued that the policy change could hinder some teachers who rely on child care for their own children and others who are pursuing career development.

“We believe this decision violates teachers’ contracts because the district is making a material change to teachers working conditions after teachers were already locked into contracts,” she said, noting that the alliance plans to file a class-action grievance against the district.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez.

The alliance also criticized Superintendent Pedro Martinez, saying his push for the schedule change further undermines an already tenuous professional relationship between Martinez and district employees.

Three SAISD principals spoke to media members about the policy revision Thursday at James Madison Elementary School on the West Side.

Lianna Cano, principal of Madison Elementary, said the schedule change will help with supervision of students who may arrive on campus long before the school day starts and stay long after the final bell rings.

“It’s not uncommon for parents to drop off their children extremely early on campus,” Cano said. “These students unfortunately are unsupervised.”

Cano said teachers and support staff on each SAISD campus do their best to supervise these students, but traffic and other unforeseen circumstances may delay people picking up or dropping off their children.

SAISD officials had been careful to ensure that providing flexibility in teachers’ work schedules to help supervise students would not extend teachers’ total work hours on campus on a daily or weekly basis, Cano said.

(From left) Miguel Elizondo, Burbank High School principal; Moises Ortiz, Rhodes Middle School principal; and Lianna Cano, Madison Elementary School principal.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

(From left) Miguel Elizondo, Burbank High School principal; Moises Ortiz, Rhodes Middle School principal; and Lianna Cano, Madison Elementary School principal; speak about the policy revision.

“This is not about people already working day and night working longer hours," said Moises Ortiz, principal of Rhodes Middle School. "This is about better managing our talent pool to provide better customer service to our parents and take better care of our students.”

Burbank High School Principal Miguel Elizondo said the policy change permits him and his four fellow campus administrators to get some help from educators and support staff in ensuring safety for 1,100 to 1,300 students before and after school daily.

“In my opinion, if we could bring in staff a little early, they’ll be in a position to provide that support,” he said.

The principals said the policy change brings SAISD more in line with other local school districts.

Later Thursday afternoon, about 20 representatives of the San Antonio Alliance and a few supportive community members gathered outside the SAISD central office to protest the policy change.

Potter said that no procedure yet exists to guide when and how campus principals will tweak their employees' class day schedules. This, she said, fosters fear and uncertainty in employees’ minds.

“The superintendent said at [Wednesday’s] board meeting that there will be [a procedure] ‘by the end of the year,’” Potter said. “In the meantime, it appears to be the wild, wild West. Some of you have principals who will exercise reasonableness. Others of you have principals who may abuse this policy and your time.”

During consultations among principals, district administrators, and employees earlier this year, teachers and union representatives made recommendations that could yield some workday flexibility but without giving principals or the superintendent the authority to adjust schedules, Potter said.

Additionally, Potter said Martinez and SAISD trustees rushed the policy change without giving serious consideration to teachers’ feedback.

She cited district layoffs and the district’s decision to hand operations of Stewart Elementary School to a charter school operator as examples of what she called Martinez’s lack of leadership.

“After stressful and demoralizing layoffs in the spring and no pay increase whatsoever, the superintendent and board now add longer work hours with zero protections," she said.

DeZavala Elementary School teacher David Garza attended the protest. He said he’s lucky that his son attends the same campus.

“But I’ve got colleagues who do have children who don’t attend the same school; some have kids who go to schools in other districts,” Garza said. “Other districts, they’re opening up at 7:15 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. That’s the earliest someone is going to be able to drop off their child. How can they make it to drop their child off and get to their school on time when they need to?”

14 thoughts on “Change in SAISD Schedule Policy Upsets Teachers, Pleases Principals

  1. Staying to 5:30 or 6pm is not “staying a little late” and dropping them an hour before school starts is not that same as a little early. Once staff arrives to cover morning or afternoon/evening duty, that AP is gone–for whatever reason.

    And then there’s everybody’s reason for not covering this duty, “child care,” “college classes,” “athletic practices” or sports, “dental appointment,” “tutoring,” (add yours here).

    Even more, what starts out or is promised to be 15-20 minutes will swell up to be 45 minutes or more. (Admin will no doubt say this is a perfect to tutor students – who you do not have, and a discipline they might not need help with. The AP will be too busy to be present.)

    Once more, the proposed procedure cannot address every situation, and the principal will wind up with the discretion s/he needs–which on the surface sounds reasonable, but in actuality will be abused. Maybe you’ll have reasonable admin, maybe they like you, maybe not. Just maybe.

    Oh yeah, other districts do it so therefore it must be reasonable and works. I guess they have the admin, and realities that we do too, right? Make sense. Comparing yourself to another person has always made you a better person, right? Such impeccable leadership!

    And now to the heart of the matter, this is proposal is a problem. Why? Because a great distrust exists between admin and teacher, up to including the Board. Pretty obvious, I say. What has “leadership” done to abridge this distrust? To create a common ground that respects your concerns, fears, and experience….?

    Not much.

    Generalized commentary: ever noticed that those in upper management make decisions that they themselves do not carry out. These decisions fall upon those who have no vote in the decision-making process? I am not talking about mere voice – if one even gets that – but actual shared power. If ever this decided vision or plan does not succeed, those who carried out the plan are to blame-later to be “reorganized” or “restructured” or “RIF” but those who decided upon this vision/plan have no culpability. Heck, they’re irreproachable in all regards.

  2. Sounds like a way to get an extra hour of tutoring daily without paying the teachers for it.

    Students arrive at 7:00 get breakfast at 7:15 -7:30 usually with a paraprofessional to monitor( paid time). Then they are monitored by the same para ‘til the bell to line up for class. Meanwhile many teachers arrive early to set up class for the day, run off papers, do some paperwork, enter grades from the papers they worked 2 hours to grade last night (no pay for that a time, we understood as teachers there would be late work). Now when will that be possible? It’s not realistic to expect to be able to do it with students to supervise or “tutor”. ‘So my child’s school only accepts children after 7:00 a.m. what am I supposed to do, find daycare that will take him/her to school (and pay extra for it of course)? Because of course it takes me 45 minutes to get to school.

    Now after school I signed up to tutor students for an hour (no extra pay here either) and my child has after school services until 5:00 p.m. I can just make it for pick up time.

  3. Teachers and Paras are not babysitters. Principals should fall in this unfair practice and assist with THEIR STUDENTS too.
    Another course of action should be over time pay, since work hours are set in contract already anything beyond those hours should be paid

  4. Shame!! Teachers are professional educators, not babysitters. The ideas behind this proposal remind me of the old days when teachers were required to work the concession stands at basketball and football games. It just isn’t right. And any time a teacher uses to fulfill this babysitting assistance is time taken away from planning and grading papers!

  5. Once again, parents aren’t/can’t/don’t want to take care of their kids, so teachers are being asked to do it. You’re going to ask them to take MORE time away from their families without paying them. You’re going to cut into the unpaid time they already spend either preparing for the day or grading papers or writing lesson plans.

    Has anyone thought about how horrible it is for those kids that get dropped off super early and picked up super late? Instead of refusing to allow parents to neglect those kids (plenty of schools refuse to allow students to be dropped off early and call police if they don’t get picked up in time), you’re going to enable them further at the expense of the students and teachers. Great plan.

  6. Apparently the SAISD Board believes in free labor. This is insulting if not in violation of US Department of Labor standards.
    Next election, SAISD will get new board members and hopefully a new superintendent!

  7. Another example of the poor leadership and management within SAISD. How about not allowing children on campus until the start of school and closing school doors when school is over? Oh, that probably is not a good idea because it would then make the parents more responsible for their kids! Why not make the principals and non-teaching professionals and paraprofessionals responsible for the babysitting?

  8. SAISD school staff continues to parent because SAISD administration force it on them. Let all the mid-managers from the district office be on campuses for early drop-off or late pick-up. Let them see how needy our students are. Again, the district looks at a business model instead of an education model. Again, school staff is caring, feeding, consoling, encouraging, tutoring, teaching basic social skills, etc., because the district will not demand parents prepare their children. Our taxes are poorly spent. Our board members are out of touch. Principals already abuse their power. None of this prepares our students to be educated or socially adept citizens.

  9. Unbelievable…at this stage of a school year that is just getting underway in the SAISD. Talk about a total lack of disrespect for teachers. It’s bad enough that a good number of the District’s principals are mediocre, and self-ordained political flunkies, but just the mere thought of giving them additional authority to force last minute schedule changes to an-already overworked, and certainly underpaid faculty (as a response to inept parents who overburden the district with their babysitting needs…), that’s just incorrect, and corrupt. Shame on the SAISD leadership (or should I say “lack of leadership”!)

  10. Mr Martinez had to please the charters he works with. A cornerstone of many charters are the extra time teachers are expected to work, be it for supervision, tutoring, meeting, planning – they are expected to be on duty. So now that SAISD has turned over some of their schools to charters, each principal has to have the power to determine their working hours.
    The time of the decision is AFTER teachers could resign without penalty. Given the numerous postings on the SAISD web site, the rancor and stress they put teachers through last Spring – I wonder how many more resignations they would have had if this had been decided earlier?
    SAISD counts on TFA to man a great number of their positions, but the glamour of that professional decision is fading and the numbers are going down of recent graduates that choose TFA as an option. Thus SAISD would be smart to address their teacher morale issue before they find themselves unable to attract prospective teachers.
    In reference to other comments. I used to stay late many many days, and I have to agree with the writers- the administrators and campus police generally came about 30 minutes before the bell and were gone early. Any issues, including safety, could not be addressed.

  11. The SAISD is run by a gaggle of BABOONS who are only jockeying for the next mayor’s race. I feel so sorrow for the good kids in the inner city.

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