Virtual school’s board votes against full in-person work week

"There’s no proof and no evidence that being in the building makes you more effective than not being in the building."

“During Covid, we didn’t just survive, we thrived. We’re a virtual school. We know how to teach virtual. We know how to work virtual. There’s no proof and no evidence that being in the building makes you more effective than not being in the building. It says to me that you don’t trust me.”

With less than 40 days before University View Academy faculty and staff report to school to begin preparing for the new year, one thing is certain – they won’t have to fret over a five-day, in-person work week.

UVA is a statewide K-12 online public school with teachers from all across the state of Louisiana. They teach remotely from anywhere in the state. The issue at hand was the school’s President Linda Holliday wanted all teachers to drive into their building in Baton Rouge & teach from there daily.

After Holliday started looking to implement a five-day, in-person work week for all staff, many faculty members resigned, while others threatened to quit.

There was a special board meeting held Tuesday evening at the school where the issue was addressed. After over three hours of discussion, which included comments from both faculty and parents, the board unanimously approved the motion made by John Price to allow the interim superintendent, Shana King, Ph.D., to work with supervisors in each department to devise the work schedule for the upcoming 2022-23 academic year.

The board’s decision was well-received by the nearly standing-room crowd in the conference room.

“We haven’t worked five days a week for over five years,” King said. “Before Covid, we were working two days a week and three days a week for some leadership. “I am not OK with what’s happened. We need to trust our leaders who have relationships with all these people (faculty). We have to trust the people we employ.”

The meeting started with a pair of teachers asking for Holliday’s resignation as board president immediately because the teachers said they believed morale among faculty was at an all-time low following the resignation of two superintendents and two assistant superintendents in the last six months, as well as the resignation of several high-profile teachers.

Holliday admitted that she mentioned the idea of all faculty being in-person, five days a week, but had lessened her stance over the last few weeks to three days a week for everyone.

“My feelings about it would be three days a week for everybody,” she said. “I can’t make that decision. That’s a board decision. That’s a policy decision.”

Near the end of the meeting, Holliday motioned to have the supervisors of each department create a flex schedule for the faculty members who work under them for the academic year.

“I’m convinced after tonight, that the only people who really know their people (teachers) are the supervisors,” she said.

Holliday expressed concern about the school being able to provide evidence of how long teachers were working if they were at home.

“We are supervised by the state,” she said. “What we have to be concerned about is the money because the money is a serious problem in that it is public money from public individuals who run this school. For us to not be concerned about these items such as employment and hours of work and recording these hours of work is something we have to do.”

An official with the program who oversees the metrics tracking when teachers log in to the school’s program assured Holliday those numbers could be provided at any time.

“I want to first fix this idea that you’re paying people to come to work at the location,” King said. “Our people work sun up to sundown. You are trusting me as superintendent with over 30 years of experience. During Covid, we didn’t just survive, we thrived. We’re a virtual school. We know how to teach virtual. We know how to work virtual. There’s no proof and no evidence that being in the building makes you more effective than not being in the building. I am not OK with the board deciding how we get our work done, how we interface with the children. It says to me that you don’t trust me.”

Michelle Lee, a parent of a UVA student, expressed support for the teachers and staff and credited them for her son’s vast improvements in school.

“I’m here to support the kids and the teachers because they’re wonderful,” she said. “I don’t know what else to say other than the school board can save his school because, without the teachers, there ain’t no school.”

Once the work schedules are drafted, they will be presented to the board. The school’s next board meeting is set for June 28.

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