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Nevis Board dismisses longer school day grievance

The Nevis School Board's grievance committee, seizing on a technicality of a grievance filed on prospective actions, has denied the teachers' objection to increasing the school day by 22 minutes.

The committee of Ed Becker, Sherm Anderson and Marv Vredenburg determined that "a grievance cannot exist at this time as no member of the Nevis Federation of Teachers has been affected by the action of the board.

"The board's decision to extend the student day is a sound educational decision made in the best interests of our students and will be in place for the 2009-10 school year and beyond," a memo to the board states.

The committee noted language in the contract "is very clear in giving the district authority to require staff to 'be on duty in their classroom 30 minutes before students start school in the morning and shall remain available to students for 35 minutes after class.'''

Superintendent Steve Rassier said this language is somewhat unique to the district. But the school's attorney advised, "past practice cannot contradict clear language."

"We firmly believe that this language is very clear in giving the board authority to unilaterally extend the teacher work day when the student day is extended," the memo states.

"However, the benefits that could be received in a favorable decision for the board do not outweigh the expense of an arbitration case that could stretch into next year. A past practice can be ended with prior notice, as long as the contract contains clear language, as it does in Article XI."

Rassier noted a concern was staff having less time after school to work with students or meet with parents, but this too is covered in the contract.

"For parent-teacher meetings, i.e. Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings, parental concerns, etc., teachers will be available as necessary," the contract states.

"We believe that our staff has been exemplary in meeting this section of our contract and will continue to be professional in meeting the educational needs of our students and their parents, guardians," the memo states.

The committee is recommending the "teacher work day remain the same as last year," with the exception of the last working day of the week when teachers may depart 15 minutes after classes end for the day.

But this comes with a caveat: "In the future these hours may change as the educational needs of the district change."