The Ogden School District will continue its study of a longer school year, despite a declaration by the Utah Education Association that it will fight the use of paraprofessionals or substitute teachers in classrooms on a regular basis.
Ogden Superintendent James West said he believes the association does not understand the Ogden district's tentative proposal, which would be "a sophisticated management approach driven by teachers."As introduced a few weeks ago, the tentative district plan calls for 20 additional school days, with the year divided into an 11-month schedule. The costs would be mitigated by the use of "alternate teachers" in every classroom on a biweekly basis.
The teachers would not be substitutes, however, in the usual sense, West said. They would be part of a team closely integrated into a classroom's study plan and would work under the direction of the regular teacher.
"When we announced we would study the option, the news media picked up on the word `substitute,' and we've been stuck with it," West said.
Saturday, the UEA House of Delegates adopted a declaration stating that public school students are entitled to their regular teachers every school day.
West said he believes it was "unfortunate that someone in (the UEA president's) position would take such a stance without knowing what's going on."
He said he received a letter from UEA President Lily Eskelsen Friday, asking to be involved in the Ogden district's study and was surprised to learn the association had taken a position Saturday.
Ogden's teacher association has not taken a position on the district proposal for a lengthened school year. A study of the possibilities is just in the formative stages, West said. A state grant was obtained to finance a study, which will include input from all of those who would be affected by a longer school calendar.
West said preliminary discussions have indicated that many certified teachers might be available for covering classrooms at less cost than those hired for year-round employment. They would include retired teachers, teachers in training and inactive teachers who do not want to work a full schedule.
The UEA statement said the association feels "this plan would adversely affect schoolchildren. The regular use of substitutes would diminish the quality of instruction and interrupt classwork," the declaration said.
"We adults should all remember what it was like to have a substitute when we were little," Eskelsen said.