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Lorain Schools teachers union disputes CEO's teacher attendance claims

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LORAIN — The teachers union president is disputing attendance claims made in CEO David Hardy’s latest newsletter.

In January’s “Titan Touchpoints,” sent out Sunday evening, Hardy claims teachers missed an average of 18.1 days last school year, not including Family and Medical Leave Act or professional development. Lorain Education Association President Jay Pickering said that numbers is not true, according to information he gained from the district via a public records request.

“To get 18.1 days apiece you would have to include everything a teacher would have been missing — including FMLA, including sending teachers to meetings and conferences, and teachers that they put on administrative leave,” Pickering said.

FMLA or the Family and Medical Leave Act, is a federal act allowing eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical reasons, including the birth or adoption of a child or serious health conditions with the employee or their immediate family. Under FMLA eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave a year, with their group health benefits maintained during their absence.

“It quite honestly might be illegal for him to make any comment criticizing anybody regarding FMLA and we’re investigating that right now,” Pickering said. “And that might result in unfair labor practice on his part.”

According to Pickering’s data from the district, FMLA use averaged out to around 2.3 days per teacher last year. The data also showed teachers used an average of 9.5 days of sick leave — a 94-95 percent attendance rate, he said. They were also sent to more than 1,000 days of meetings and conferences, which could include professional development, averaging 2.25 days per-teacher.

“It wasn’t their decision, most of them told me they would have preferred to stay in class. But when they’re told to go do something, they have to do it,” he said.

Teachers were also placed on administrative leave for 219 days last year, averaging close to half a day each, he said.

The district employs 471 teachers across its 14 buildings.

Hardy tried earlier this school year to incentivize teacher attendance, as mentioned in Sunday’s newsletter. Union members voted 217 to 15 against a $2,000 perfect attendance incentive offered to its members in September, according to information shared with The Chronicle-Telegram following the original vote. The incentive allegedly would have penalized the use of accrued leave, including staff attending their children’s events in the district, and there was no grievance clause if payroll made a mistake.

The district plans to offer a similar incentive to union members next school year, according to the newsletter.

This is not the first time Hardy has used the 18.1 number, Pickering said, but it is the first time he’s seen it in writing. Pickering said Hardy is trying to make teachers look bad, something he calls “really disappointing.”

“He is blaming teachers for every absence that teachers were absent for, regardless of the reason,” Pickering said at Monday’s school board meeting. “The only purpose to that is to make us look bad, unless he’s not smart enough to understand the information. I don’t know which one it is, neither of them sound very good to me.”

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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