Several hundred teachers won't be able to attend this year's Utah Education Association convention unless they take a one- to two-day pay cut.
Alpine, Provo and Nebo School districts, which are among almost a dozen districts throughout Utah opting to stick with their traditional mid-October fall break rather than cancel classes Oct. 1 and 2 for the UEA conference in which teachers attend workshops and listen to national speakers.
"It's unfortunate," said Provo district educator Schipper Clayson. He will pay $80 for a substitute teacher to replace him at school Thursday.
Further, the UEA date change puts the convention on the same day as the statewide annual Oct. 1 enrollment count. "It kind of caught us by surprise," said Randy Raphael, school statistics specialist with the State Office of Education.
State and district officials said the date switch shouldn't have a negative effect on collecting enrollment numbers, however.
Districts that are out for UEA will have to do their count on Oct. 5 but still must meet the Oct. 15 deadline when sending the data to the State Office of Education, a shorter time slot but doable. The numbers are of students enrolled on that date, not students present on the day. State funding is doled out based on this data.
UEA officials say the date switch was due to scheduling constraints at the South Towne Exhibit Center in Sandy, where the conference will be held.
In general, the districts that aren't closing this Thursday and Friday are allowing teachers to take one or two personal days to attend the convention. The number of personal days allotted each school year varies by district but is generally two to five days. Many districts require the teacher to pay for a substitute teacher to replace them while out on their personal day.
Clayson said he wants to attend the convention Thursday to hit a workshop on the changing demographics of Utah schools, as well as a session by university researchers regarding what practices work best in schools. The teacher also wanted to hear Friday's keynote speaker, education author Harry Wong, but he isn't willing to pay another $80 for the extra day. "I'll just reread the book," Clayson said.
Reasons for sticking with the mid-October "Fall Recess" date vary district by district, including wanting to stick with athletic schedules, aligning with higher education for concurrent enrollment courses and matching the end of the quarter.
Provo district officials pointed out that aligning the three Utah County districts was important because some parents work in one district and have children attending in another district.
Iron and Washington district officials said they communicated and matched mid-October break schedules – which coincide with the Utah Deer Hunt kickoff, Saturday, Oct. 17.
UEA spokesman Mike Kelley said the fact some districts aren't letting out for the convention is "a loss for the teachers" but also a loss for the students since the teachers receive "important classroom skills" at the event.
Officials at several districts, however, said they are tired of the convention date switching. "UEA has jumped all over the map," said Nebo district spokeswoman Lana Hiskey.
District leaders in Wasatch, Iron and Washington point out few of their teachers attend the convention anyway. "People see this time of year as good for family activities," said Wasatch district Superintendent Terry Shoemaker.
Last year, 5,500 people attended the event, according to UEA. There are 22,277 regular classroom K-12 teachers in Utah this year, according to the State Office of Education.
The UEA convention will be back on track the next three years with dates in mid-October. UEA switched from the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City starting with fall 2008 due to low availability for desired dates.
This year's event in Sandy will kick off with a speech from National Education Association vice president Lily Eskelsen, a former Utah teacher and UEA official. It is the 100th anniversary celebration of UEA. Some 200 vendors will offer wares and many workshops are planned, including some for new teachers. Cost is free to UEA members or $5 per person per day.
NEA has 3.2 million members and is the largest professional employee organization in the United States.
Go to www.utea.org for more information on UEA.
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