Time Well Spent

Educators attendance during 2004-05 school year at 96
Gilroy – Gilroy teachers appear to be a healthy bunch, at least according to the most recent figures from a Gilroy Unified School District report, which showed the district’s overall attendance rate was 96 percent during the 2004-2005 school year.

Still, the high attendance rate is deceptive considering local educators said teachers often show up to work under the weather.

During Thursday’s board meeting, Linda Piceno, GUSD assistant superintendent of human resources, equated morale and attendance, saying a positive work environment is reflected in high attendance.

But Michelle Nelson doesn’t necessarily agree.

“I wouldn’t tie those together,” said the Gilroy Teachers Association president Monday. “I don’t see how you can tie them together. The morale varies from school to school and teachers come to work because they want to be there for students, that’s why they pick the job.”

Nelson thinks a better way to analyze absences and compare morale would be to look at the Monday and Friday absence trends. If teachers are taking three day weekends or dreading Monday, that’s a more sure sign of unhappy workers.

But simply looking at the number of days teachers are sick doesn’t really indicate anything, she said.

“It’s a given that at the beginning of the school year you’re going to get a cold,” said Nelson. “I told the new teachers it’s a rule.”

Nelson refuses to assume that excessive absenteeism or an upward trend of teacher sick days is a direct reflection of miserable educators, but, she does believe that, like at any job, its hard to drag yourself out of bed if you despise the workplace.

“I can’t assume that a low absentee rate would indicate high morale and I can’t assume that a high absentee rate would indicate low morale, although I’m more likely to go with the second,” she said.

During the ’04-05 school year, teachers were sick an average of 7.6 days overall. On average, teachers in the K-5 levels were sick 8.2 days, while those teaching 6-12 grade were out for 6.9 days. Teacher in-service days were not included in the ’04-05 data, only sick days.

Maternity leave could have also contributed to the numbers, said Piceno.

Data from the ’03-04 school year was lost when the computer’s hard drive crashed recently. During the ’02-03 school year, teachers overall were sick an average of 7.6. Teachers in the K-5 levels were sick, on average, 7.4 days, while those teaching 6-12 grade were sick an average of eight days.

The highest absentee numbers were in ’01-02, when teachers called in sick an average of 10.4 days. Elementary teachers spent 10.3 days out and middle and high school teachers used substitutes 10.5 days.

The lowest average was 2000-01 when, district wide, 5.3 teachers called in sick. Teachers in the K-5 levels were sick an average of 6.1 days and upper-grade teachers spent an average of 4.5 days out of the classroom.

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