Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Teachers to Supt. Williams: "We're Sick"

No classes today
HELENA-WEST HELENA-  There were no classes at Central High School Tuesday morning as nearly all of the teachers at CHS and at the other campuses throughout the district called in sick in an apparent protest of the recent firing of all employees followed by rehiring them with a 3% pay cut.

The fiscally-distressed Helena-West Helena School District has been making big cuts to the staff and budgets throughout the school year.  Over 100 employees recently received letters as part of the district's reduction in force plan.  Opponents of embattled Superintendent Willie Williams plans contend that the district's policies have not been followed.  Others have said the number of layoffs wasn't large enough and that more campuses in addition to Woodruff Kindergarten should have been closed next year.

Williams and the Board
Most recently, Williams and the School Board made plans to cut all employee pay by 3%.  The district's teachers are required to approve a reduction in pay and it was rejected in a district-wide vote.  Williams and the School Board then responded with a heavy-handed, unprecedented move of firing all employees, implementing a new salary schedule, and then brining employees back as new ones under the reduced salary schedule.

Attempts to  reach Superintendent Williams were not successful.  However, the Inside Scoop Online was able to get in contact with Brenda Brown, the chairman of the district's Personnel Policies Committee, which negotiates with the Superintendent and School Board on behalf of the teachers since the HWHSD doesn't recognize the local AEA chapter as a union.  She told the Scoop that early estimates showed that 85% of teachers district-wide had participated in the sick out.  When asked what was the issue that drove them out of the classroom she said, "The 3% pay cut was rejected by the teachers.  The Superintendent and the Board did it anyway.  He (Williams) even told us that a pay cut won't affect anyone's pay."

Most CHS students spent the morning in the gym.
Brown said that it is possible the teachers would return to work soon if the Superintendent would sit down with the teachers and negotiate in good faith.  However, she said that she had not any discussions with the Superintendent and that no meetings with him and the School Board were scheduled.

One board member who has been openly critical of the Superintendent, Christopher Franklin, also spoke with our staff.  He said, "I am sympathetic with the teachers and they have told me that either the Superintendent goes or they (the teachers) do."  Franklin was asked if he had talked with the Superintendent this morning.  He said, "The Superintendent will not talk to me."

The Inside Scoop will keep everyone posted as information comes in.

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