Hundreds of San Francisco teachers called in “sick” on Tuesday, leaving the School District hanging and forced to find emergency subs to teach the kids.
As the Thanksgiving break approaches, around 600 full-time teachers called in to take a personal day so they could get a head start on the holiday.
This came at the expense of students, with school still in session on Tuesday.
Officials at the School District office had to mobilize over 100 central office employees to help the substitute teachers who were overwhelmed with requests to fill in for the missing educators.
According to the San Francisco Unified School District, 432 teachers out of 3,700 called in sick or requested a personal day. This represents 12 percent of the city by the bay’s teaching staff.
The rest of the absentees were attending mandatory training or on bereavement leave.
Among special education teachers and pre-school aides, 179 were also absent on Tuesday.
The high number of absences only affected San Francisco schools, while other districts in the Bay Area did not report problems.
“It does create a sense of frustration when we have these kinds of numbers that happen for no apparent discernible reason other than it’s a day before a holiday,” said Superintendent Richard Carranza. “Yeah, it’s a little disappointing.”
The average absentee rate for teachers on any normal day is seven percent, with a higher incidence of no-shows on Fridays at nine percent.
According to their labor contract, teachers in San Francisco have 10 days of leave, seven of which can be used as personal days.
Dennis Kelly, president of the United Educators of San Francisco Union said instead of calling in sick, teachers can schedule personal days at will, and they don’t need to ask for approval.
“This is the first time we’ve been notified there was an issue in any year,” Kelly said. “We don’t know if there’s a sudden spike this year.”
Last year’s absentee rate on the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving was 9.9 percent, slightly higher than the average. In 2013, it went as high as 11.7 percent.
Most San Francisco residents would like the teachers union and school district to come up with a solution. Closing the schools for the full week is becoming a popular solution in other parts of California.
In essence, the teachers and aides have every right to take time off, and this may just be a case of bad timing.
What do you think of so many San Francisco teachers being absent the day before Thanksgiving break?