Unions say FCPS must do more to address staffing shortage | Education

A day after the Frederick County Board of Education approved 11 measures to recruit employees and reduce stress on its understaffed workforce, union leaders representing teachers and administrators said the changes were “incremental” steps in the right direction.

But Missy Dirks, president of the Frederick County Teachers Association, said they didn’t go far enough.

Over the past few weeks, the board has solicited thousands of responses to surveys on the understaffing issue and held an emergency work session for employees to express their frustration. Many teachers participated in both, Dirks said, often making emotional appeals for relief.

“They don’t feel like they’ve been listened to,” Dirks said. “Which then leads to even lower morale than we already had.”

During a five-and-a-half-hour meeting on Monday – which extended past 11:30 p.m. – Board members approved 12 of 14 motions relating to the issue of understaffing and burnout of employees.

They added a series of early dismissal days to give teachers more planning time, suspended any professional development that is not legally required, and agreed to provide additional compensation – likely in the form of a bonus or an allowance – for teachers who perform work outside the home. their regular duties and hours.

Amid a nationwide shortage of workers of all kinds, teachers in Frederick County and across the country are giving up their planning time to cover classes for their absent colleagues.

Dirks said the teachers at FCPS would rather just get rid of these tasks. But since that’s not feasible at the moment, she said, they should be paid for their time at a fair rate.

The board agreed Monday night to compensate them at the per diem rate rather than the workshop rate – something Dirks said its members have long advocated. The workshop wage is a flat rate of $ 28.81 per hour, usually reserved for training sessions. Per diem allowance is calculated based on a teacher’s education level and years of experience, and for many it’s well over $ 28.81.

However, the details of the implementation of this additional compensation will all need to be worked out during negotiation sessions between the Board of Directors and the FCTA. That’s another sobering thing for Dirks, she said.

“We have no idea what they’re ready to come to the table on,” Dirks said.

She also worried that the board was not doing enough to give teachers more paid autonomy time during the day. She said she would have liked members to add more days of early termination, as three is not enough to provide “real and continued relief”.

Additionally, many teachers had called for a reduction or elimination of longer-term systemic initiatives that take hours out of their schedules each month in the form of staff meetings, data analysis and more.

Danny Rumpf, president of the Frederick County Administrative and Supervisory Association, said he appreciates the council’s efforts. Most of the board’s actions are unlikely to directly affect its bargaining unit, but the ‘ripple effect’ of hiring and retaining staff of all kinds would help the system as a whole, a- he declared.

During the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, Rumpf told board members that the increased workload of administrators, supervisors and curriculum specialists was leading some to consider early retirement or return to work. classroom teaching.

“We continue to expect us to do whatever it takes,” he said, “but the current pace is not sustainable.”

Like Dirks, he said the board will need to do more to support its members. But he acknowledged the budget was tight and said he was grateful for the actions taken by the board.

“We know that our board has to work in an area,” he said. “They don’t just have blank checks that they can cash.”

“It was a long night,” he added.

Union representatives representing the system’s support staff – which includes bus drivers, food service workers, guards and more – were unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

The board has agreed to provide retention incentives to support workers, but the details won’t be clear until both sides get to the bargaining table.

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