ST. CHARLES, Mo. – Dozens attended the Francis Howell School District‘s Board of Education meeting Thursday night. Many were there in support of the Francis Howell Education Association.
During contract negotiations between the district and the union, district administrators proposed eliminating the full-time release for the FHEA President position. This means the current president would return to full-time teaching in the classroom instead of spending full-time as president. However, she would be able to keep the position.
“There won’t be any time allotted to do it, so now Ill essentially have two full-time jobs,” Anita Kuehner said. She is the current FHEA full-time release president. She is finishing her 10th year in this position.
“I’m not sad that I will go back to a classroom, I am sad that I won’t be able to advocate for both the best that I could do, if I didn’t have to do both,” she said.
“It’s important to note that the union president position is not being eliminated, only the full-time release, which means the president must return to the classroom to remain a District employee. The Board and Administration will continue to work collaboratively with teachers and FHEA as we move forward,” the district said in a statement Thursday ahead of the meeting.
“The decision to take away the full-time support of our teachers is a bad business decision,” one person said during public comment at Thursday night’s meeting.
“Taking the release time from the president of FHEA is silencing our voice,” another person said during public comment.
“I can pick up the phone and call Anita, I can email her, and she can begin working to solve a problem immediately and that’s not going to happen now,” Raquel Babb said. She is the second vice president of FHEA and a current teacher, who is not on a full-time release from the district. This means she is a full-time teacher and FHEA duties are completed on other time, however she is allowed release days during the school year, where she can take time from teaching and direct it toward FHEA duties, if needed.
The district said the position is being eliminated because of various reasons, including, financial considerations, taxpayer concerns and limited accountability of the role, among others.
“We have no interest in engaging in a public back and forth, we value our teachers tremendously and a public debate would further hurt that relationship,” FHSD Superintendent Nathan Hoven said in regard to this issue at the end of the meeting Thursday night.
Superintendent Hoven also said the district had been silent on this issue up until now because they did not want it to appear that they were swaying the vote in either direction. The district plans to release more communication to staff and parents soon.
Kuehner said she would like to see the district return to negotiations and re-instate the position.