Teachers at Ballington Academy for the Arts and Sciences are requesting additional compensation on account of an extended academic school year that they contend has added 14 work days not specified in their employee handbook.
The charter school teachers, who are at-will employees and do not operate under a contract, cite language from their employee handbook that stated they are required to work a 186-day academic year. Construction work caused the El Centro school to start classes after its anticipated opening date and resulted in the extension of the school year.
“That’s not what I agreed to when I signed the receipt of that handbook,” third-grade teacher Sayrs Morris told the board members.
The 11-member faculty also had announced intentions to file a wage claim with the state Department of Industrial Relations if the board did not honor their request.
Ballington’s board of directors met in closed door session to consider the teachers’ request and afterward told the teachers in attendance that an answer would be provided by June 5.
“We’re not saying the teachers will not get paid what they’re asking for,” board member Ann Zimmerman said. “And we’re not guaranteeing that they will.”
The compensation discrepancy was first noticed by faculty earlier this month and prompted discussion with school administration. That discussion led administration to eventually offer a week’s pay “as a goodwill gesture,” according to a May 17 letter addressed to faculty from administration.
Acting in agreement, faculty deemed the goodwill offer “insufficient,” Morris said.
Teachers contend that the delay added 14 days to the school year. School officials acknowledge a week’s delay.
That same letter also states that as exempted salaried employees, teachers are paid for teaching, rather than the number of hours worked during any pay period.
“Just because the school year was unexpectedly extended for one week, it does not mean that Ballington is legally obligated to pay teachers for an ‘extra week’s pay’ because that work is already compensated as part of the annual salary,” the letter stated.
All parties involved expressed hope that an acceptable resolution can be arrived at.
“Our No. 1 priority when we walk through the door is the children,” Morris said.
The charter school serves 257 children from throughout the Valley, has a maximum class size of 25 students and had an Academic Performance Index score of 837 the last school year.
Board members said administrators will review the employee handbook before any action is taken.
“We have to make sure (our subsequent action) makes sense legally, financially and organizationally,” said board member Gerald McFadden, Volunteers of America chief executive officer and president after the meeting.
The charter school falls under the jurisdiction of the El Centro Elementary School District and was founded in 2009 by the Volunteers of America, Community Education and Development Corporation.
Staff Writer, Copy Editor Julio Morales can be reached at 760-337-3415 or at firstname.lastname@example.org