If you’re wondering why, in a world where remote learning has become the norm, snow means the cancelation of school in the city of Manchester, look no further than the Manchester Education Association.
On December 17, 2020, the previous snow day in the city, I sent Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt the following text:
Given the use of remote technology to conduct school classes, is today a snow day in the city of Manchester or are kids remote learning?
While Dr. Goldhardt did not reply, I came to learn that a snow day had been declared, therefore no classes were had.
Since then, I have been digging and digging to find out why the Manchester School District was canceling school because of weather when students and teachers alike are prepped and ready to remote learn. After all, Manchester would hardly be alone in deciding to have a remote learning day during a snowstorm. Moreover, with all of the instructional time that has been lost due to all of the remote and “hybrid” (two days in school, two days remote learning per week) learning, one would think the district would be eager to go into remote mode and provide at least some instructional time.
Sources tell Girard At Large that the school administration would actually like to have a remote learning day but that the teachers union won’t agree. As the argument goes, Sue Ellen Hannan (pictured above), President of the MEA, has made the union’s position clear to the administration: Snow days are a benefit guaranteed in their contract. As such, they are entitled to them and will not agree to remote teaching from home when schools are closed due to snow.
Ain’t that something? Even though they have the tools and time to teach remotely, the union refused to allow it because teachers are “entitled” to their Snow Day “benefit.” What this really means is they get paid a day’s wage for not working.
Here’s how that works.
The contract between the MEA and the Manchester Board of School Committee does provide teachers with five snow days that do not need to be made up at the end of the school year. That means teachers can get paid up to five days for not teaching because they don’t have to make up the days. After five, the days need to be made up and the teachers are required to teach those days, which are added to the end of the school year.
The thing is that snow days were meant to be called when weather conditions were not conducive to people traveling to school. To be sure, today qualifies as that. However, as was the case in December and will remain the case from here-on-out, the inability to travel is no longer an obstacle to providing instruction. This begs the question as to whether or not kids should have at least some instruction on days when weather happens.
Parents and other workers who’ve been forced by the pandemic to work remotely from home are expected to go to work remotely from home on days like this so why shouldn’t teachers and students be expected to do the same?
Now we know the answer. Those who say they’re all about educating your students, who martyr themselves on how they go above and beyond for your kids, who pride themselves on all they work they do for your children, despite all the taxpayers refuse to give them have declared that they’re “entitled” to their snow day “benefit” and, as a result, refuse to teach remote classes when school is “closed” for snow. Guess we shouldn’t be surprised to hear that from the same union that has, for years, argued that their pay raises “are for the children.”
Don’t worry, though. Tomorrow’s Wednesday. Schools will be closed again for “deep cleaning” and students will be home for yet another day of non-instruction, unless they can track down their teachers for extra help. That’ something they’re supposed to be available to provide on Wednesdays, though nobody’s really sure how many student-teacher interactions actually take place as envisioned by the district’s hybrid learning plan. Anyway, with two snow days down, there are only three more “work free” snow days left this year before the teachers will have to actually do their job to get paid. The other option would be for Dr. Goldhardt to require remote instruction when schools are closed for weather. Yes, the MEA would likely file a grievance to challenge the decision. It’s a fight Goldhardt should pick if he’s really concerned about the amount of instructional time students receive and so that all may see what really motivates the union.