Teachers’ absences at Whittell High eyed | NevadaAppeal.com

Teachers’ absences at Whittell High eyed

William Ferchland

ZEPHYR COVE – Attorneys and district officials visited Whittell High School on Friday to interview staff regarding a one-day mass absence of teachers.

Eleven of the school’s 16 classroom teachers called in absent Oct. 30. Douglas County School District officials began last week to investigate the reason.

Rich Alexander, assistant superintendent in charge of human resources for Douglas County School District, conducted interviews with the school district’s attorneys Jim Hales and Mike Rowe.

Alexander delivered a memo on Nov. 5 to Whittell’s teachers regarding Friday’s first round of questioning.

It stated that those who were absent could face disciplinary action. Teachers who did not cooperate with the interviews could also face some form of punishment, which could include dismissal or docked pay.

Alexander referred questions to Dave Brady, Douglas County’s school board president.

“The district cannot condone violation of Nevada law or of its negotiated contract which binds each teacher,” Brady said. “Equally important is ethical improprieties for any staff member to abandon students during school hours for unsanctioned purposes.”

Principal Janie Gray said the absent rate by teachers that day was unusual. She refused to speculate on a reason, although some mentioned it could have been a planned protest. Others said it was valid and not connected to an objection.

“In my years of education, I never had 50 percent of the faculty absent, unless there was a flu,” Gray said. “I was not aware of anything like the flu.”

Marty Cronin, president of Douglas County Professional Education Association, said a clause in the teacher’s contract prohibits a work stoppage or slowdown. The clause echoes Nevada Revised Statute 288.070.

“There’s certainly been no work stoppage by the staff at Whittell,” Cronin said. “We know it, and the association has always abided by the law in regards to strikes in Nevada.”

On Friday, Whittell teachers huddled in groups and talked behind closed doors.

“There’s some discontent over here,” one said.

“It is hot,” said another. “It’s bad, and it’s going to get worse.”

Gray conducted business as usual.

“I absolutely think there was a great deal of anxiety in the building, and I think that was contagious to the students,” she said.