San Diego Unified Union Explains Teacher Burnout, Fiasco of Mental Health Day
The president of the union of educators in San Diego Unified School District implored teachers Monday not to take Friday off unless they already planned to. If any more did take it off, especially out of frustration for the district’s flip flop last week on whether to cancel school Nov. 12, it could violate their contract.
Background: Thursday, San Diego Unified Superintendent Lamont Jackson announced that he was going to ask the school board to cancel the instructional day Nov. 12. Nov. 11 is already a holiday with no school. In an email to parents late that night, Jackson wrote that it would give families the chance to focus on their wellness and mental health.
Pretty soon, though, other takes started to emerge that this proposal was an effort to deal with the fact that so many educators had requested the day off and they didn’t have enough substitute teachers. There have been many stories recently about the lack of professionals available for substituting along with other staffing needs in schools. With students also potentially out in higher-than-normal numbers, the district was going to let everyone out and add another day at the end of the year.
But then there was a backlash among parents who were concerned about the lack of planning and the implication that a sudden need for child care that day was created for their mental health.
Friday, Jackson walked it all back and told parents they could keep kids home if they wanted but they’d be welcome at school. Crucially, no instructional day would be added to the end of the school year.
Jackson flatly denied that the district had any staffing issues that contributed to the need for the “pause for mental health.”
There is a labor issue, though: at least according to Kisha Borden, the president of the San Diego Education Association. She explained to members in an email that many teachers had been planning to take Nov. 12 off and had the leave time saved to do it. But there are potentially not enough substitutes.
“If you were already planning on using earned leave on the 12th, you do not have to change your plans. What we should not and cannot do however is to encourage fellow educators to take the day off as a concerted response to the District’s poor decision-making,” she wrote. That would violate the contract the teachers have with the district.