BERLIN - The Board of Education is looking to change its method for granting teachers leaves of absence.
“It’s because of budget crunches,” said School Superintendent Brian Beningi after ideas were discussed by the school board last month.
Teachers are allowed to take up to 26 weeks for Family Medical Leave. The leaves are granted by the school board.
Sometimes, though, teachers ask for extended time off, citing parenting issues, Benigni said, and such extensions will be granted.
What Benigni wants to do is start having teachers come back at the beginning of the month instead of toward the end of it, as one did before this recent school board meeting.
The reasoning that if teachers work one day of a given month, the district still has to pay medical benefits for the whole month. That could cost $1,800 to $1,900, Benigni said.
“If that’s when the maternity leave ended, we would definitely do it and say no problem,” said Benigini. “When you’re electing … to take an extra three weeks … to (work) three days, and then take the rest of the month off because of holiday break, to me it doesn’t seem fiscally responsible to do that, nor does it seem to be in the best interest of the students.”
Having a teacher come back at a more appropriate time for instruction is also part of the move, Benigni said.
The teacher whose request sparked this change asked to come back a few days before the winter break, Beningi said Wednesday. Benigni said it would have been better to have the teacher return in January and start the new year with their class, as opposed to coming a couple of days before the break.
“You’re very welcome to stay out until … the beginning of January, the beginning of February, the beginning of March, whatever month you want, but it’s going to be the beginning of the month if we’re going to be paying insurance.”
The board also agreed to support Benigni’s decision to have salary step increases follow the policy of tenure. The question is: If teachers work one day in a year, should that count toward their receiving a step and salary increase for the next year?
What Benigni is going to do from now on is follow tenure policy, which requires teachers to work at least half a year in order for their time to count toward tenure.
Therefore, teachers will now have to work at least half a year in order to have time count toward earning the next step in their contract.
The teachers union supports both moves, Benigni said.
“I think it’s the right thing to do and I think it’s fair for the board and I also think it’s fair for the teachers to know that upfront to make those decisions,” said Beningi. “If you want the time, you’re more than welcome to take it, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of the board.”
“It makes sense to me,” said board member Julia Dennis, as other voiced agreement.
Rotating school board meetings around the schools was suggested by the communications committee before being brought to the full board Wednesday.
The idea is to try to get parents into the schools to see what is going on inside them, Benigni said.
If this change is made, the “Berlin Bravos” portion of BOE meetings, which highlights students from each school, could be replaced by a presentation by students in the school hosting the meeting.
School board President Matt Tencza said the item would be added to the agenda for further discussion.
The dates for meetings at each school should be figured out by then, said Benigni.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Monday.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.