Teacher calendar reduced 5 days

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Students in Monmouth and Independence will spend three fewer days in class this year.

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Students in Monmouth and Independence will spend three fewer days in class this year.

That's according to the recently adopted 2010-11 Central School District calendar, which was shortened as a result of the contract agreement with the faculty union in November.

The 142-member Central Education Association had agreed during collective bargaining to give up five days -- three student-contact, two inservice -- for the current school year.

The exact savings of going from a 190- to 185-day calender won't be known until the end of the school year, said Mary Knigge, district business manager.

The move will help lessen the severity of probable state budget cuts for 2011-12, officials said.

"The plan is to put into reserves what is saved for next year," said Knigge.

In the past, the district has estimated it costs roughly $80,000 in salary and benefits for all of the district's employees per day, Knigge said.

Students will have a day off on April 15. The last day of school will be on June 8.

Central's classified workers will end up with a three- or four-day reduction because they don't have contact with students during teacher inservice days, said Rich McFarland, Central's human resource director.

While recent contract negotiations were tumultuous at times, the school board lauded both collective bargaining teams and thanked the teachers for agreeing to furlough days during its Dec. 13 meeting.

That sentiment wasn't shared, however, by Tom Perry, a former school board member who alleged that union members were interested in seeking pay raises and were behind a recent petition calling Superintendent Joseph Hunter's leadership into question.

That letter-of-no-confidence effort was actually organized by a grass-roots citizen group.

"Usually when negotiations are contentious, you hear the slogan `it's all for the kids,'" Perry said. "This time, instead of ramping up that charade as a bargaining tactic, this group of people went after the superintendent ... and took the low road.

"If union negotiators had been more reasonable, this contract would have been completed months ago," he continued.

Linda Tonagel, CEA bargaining chair, countered that Perry attended only one full meeting, and that union members weren't out to harm anybody and sought nothing more than "a fair and reasonable contract."

"We don't see our profession as simply a job, we seek this career as a passion," Tonagel said.

In light of Perry's comments, Dale Tonagel, Linda's husband, had strong words for the board about an oft-enforced policy of stopping personal attacks against the superintendent during public meetings.

"If you will not take from the citizens who elect you criticism in a public forum, you damn well shouldn't allow any of your other employees to be criticized by somebody who doesn't know what the hell he's talking about," Dale Tonagel said.


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