Roaring Fork school board candidates weigh in on volunteering expectations for teachers
A pending policy regarding volunteer vetting procedures in the Roaring Fork Schools could have an added benefit of taking some pressure off of teachers.
One question posed at a recent forum to candidates running in Tuesday’s mail-ballot election for three local school board seats had to do with non-academic expectations for teachers.
District schools often ask teachers to pull extra duty during off-hour athletic, social and student project-oriented events or field trips.
A bargaining agreement between the district and the local teachers union, the Roaring Fork Community Education Association, formalizes that arrangement.
It allows that, “in recognition of the time teachers spend outside of the school day on planning and attending school events or trips, each school must establish a workday for teachers.”
Also under that agreement, school administrators are to schedule no more than an average of two hours per month for certified staff in certain non-voluntary assignments outside of the regular workday.
The Roaring Fork School District Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) agreement regarding before- and after-school time and supervision of students states:
- In recognition of the time teachers spend outside of the school day on planning and attending school events or trips, each school must establish a workday for teachers.
- School leaders and certified staff will work together to schedule no more than an average of two hours per month on non-voluntary meeting time outside of the established workday (not including unique annual events such as open houses, literacy/math night, etc.)
The designated teacher workday is an 8-hour day and may include duty before school, during lunch or after school.
The IBB agreement also notes that “certified staff members with issues that relate to the IBB Time Agreement will make every attempt to address the issue at the building level with the Building Leadership Team, and/or administrator and/or the building IBB rep. In the event the issue is not resolved at the building level within 30 workdays the issue will be forwarded to the HR Director.”
Source: Roaring Fork School District
But many of those duties could easily be fulfilled by parent and community volunteers, with the right approach, school board candidates said.
It could be a simple matter of communicating better about what those needs are, said Shane Larson, incumbent District D school board member and candidate for reelection.
“As a district, one of the things we’ve talked about is how the communication side of things needs to be worked out,” Larson said when the question was posed at the Oct. 21 Issues and Answer Forum.
“A lot of it comes down to, how are schools communicating about those opportunities?”
A new board policy that’s pending final approval later this month would make it more flexible for outside volunteers to help out in a supervised capacity without going through a full background check.
When it comes to taking tickets or monitoring hallways during an athletic event or school play, that duty doesn’t necessarily have to fall to teachers, Larson and other candidates said.
Jasmin Ramirez and Amy Connerton are challenging Larson for his seat on the school board.
Ramirez acknowledged that, in talking with teachers across the district, those extra duties as assigned cut into their effectiveness in the classroom.
“I do think that we need to connect better as parents, educators and community members … with the resources in our community that give us those opportunities to alleviate some of the pressures that our teachers have,” Ramirez said.
“It goes back to relationships, and creating community and unity between our schools and the organizations surrounding them.”
Connerton warned about a “slippery slope” if the school board micromanages issues such as building-level staffing assignments.
“We’re here to ensure the mission and vision [of the district] and to hold the superintendent accountable …,” Connerton said. That includes making sure the superintendent’s dealings with school-level administration issues are in keeping with the mission and vision, she said.
“It does go back to the question of, how can we be more creative for teachers?,” Connerton said.
Involving more parents, grandparents, retirees and local businesses in those volunteer capacities is a worthy goal, Larson added.
“But if you have to seek it out, it’s that much tougher to volunteer. If there were easier access … I think you would have more volunteers in our schools,” he said.
Natalie Torres, who is the only candidate on the ballot for the open District B seat on the Roaring Fork school board, agreed.
“A lot of parents want to be an active part of their kids’ school, but they don’t really know in what capacity they can help,” Torres said. “We need to reach out to those people to help take some of the responsibility off of our very busy teachers.”
Added Maureen Stepp, who is unopposed on the ballot for the District C school board seat, “It’s pretty obvious in talking to a lot of teachers that they are overworked and underpaid. Whatever the district can do to recognize what they do above and beyond the classroom and help alleviate some of that is important…”
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UPDATE — A Thursday morning update to the latest multi-county vote tallies now has Jasmin Ramirez up 80 votes over Roaring Fork school board incumbent Shane Larson for the lone contested seat in Tuesday’s election.