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Teachers take on yard duty

Budget cuts force Sulphur Springs School District instructors to patrol school at recess

Posted: October 6, 2009 10:23 p.m.
Updated: October 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Golden Oak Community School principal Gayle Abril talks with a student as morning recess ends Tuesday. Due to budget cuts, Sulphur Springs School District teachers and administrators are now required to patrol school grounds during recess and before class.

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Sulphur Springs School District teachers and administrators have a new responsibility in the face of budget cuts: yard duty.

The teachers will have to patrol the campus before school and during recess breaks to make sure kids aren't up to any mischief.

And some teachers say they are worried it's taking away from time they could be spending helping students learn.

"It's the additional stress," said Patty Fitzpatrick, president of the Sulphur Springs Teachers Association.

Already facing time constraints, Fitzpatrick said teachers use the 20 minutes of daily recess to grade homework, plan for the rest of the school day and work with students who need extra help with lessons.

"That's valuable time to us," she said.

The district defends the new schoolyard responsibilities, which went into effect this week, because of a $2.5 million budget reduction, or 20 percent of the budget, for the 2010-11 school year.

"We've reduced administrators, a significant amount of classified and basically we have asked the teachers to pick up the supervision duties (in order) to offset costs so that we can meet a significant challenge for next year," Superintendent Robert Nolet said.

He added the new requirement has been under consideration for the past couple of years, but district officials finally pulled the trigger because classified employees, who used to do the duty, have had their hours cut.

Teachers will rotate the 20-minute yard supervision duties about 10 days a month, Nolet said.

"It's not every day for every teacher," he said.

The district required teachers to conduct yard duty about 15 to 20 years ago, Nolet said.

For the remaining year, the district stands to save $115,000 with an estimated $250,000 savings the following year, Nolet said.

Yard duty involves monitoring students as they come to school in the mornings and keeping an eye on kids during recess.

Per the contract with the teachers' union, Sulphur Springs teachers have duty-free lunches and are not required to supervise students then, he said.

Outside of Sulphur Springs, Newhall and Saugus Union school districts do not require their teachers to do yard supervision.

The Saugus Teachers Association has it in its contract that its teachers are not required to do schoolyard supervision, said Rick Grove, assistant superintendent for personnel services.

As for supervision, Saugus teachers are only required to walk their students out after school.

The district sees the new requirements as necessary because of state cuts to education funding.

"It's a reality of the fiscal conditions that frankly every business, whether it's public or private, is facing these days," Nolet said.

While it may come as an inconvenience to the teachers, Nolet said he along with every Sulphur Springs principal and vice principal have begun performing yard duty.

"It's one of those things that we frankly need everyone to recognize that there's a lot of people out there that are having difficulty and we want to preserve as many certificated jobs as we can," Nolet said.

The new requirements went into effect this week at Sulphur Springs schools like Fair Oaks Ranch Community School.

The school's principal, Marie Stump, said she and her assistant principal will be part of the schoolyard supervisions to relieve teachers of their responsibilities as needed.

"Because teachers don't do it every day of the week, then there are other days they can go back and do planning," Stump said.
For Stump, it's another way the district needs to work together.
"We are going to work through this," Stump said. "If it's going to save jobs, we definitely are committed to it."


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