According to a new report from Syracuse.com, the Syracuse City School District is dealing with a strange new truancy problem.
It’s not that students are skipping too much school, but rather that teachers are.
On any given day, Syracuse.com reporter Julie McMahon discovered that 200 out of the district’s 3,500 employees will not show up to work, and McMahon recites a litany of very real costs:
- Last year, Syracuse schools spent $3.25 million on short-term substitutes.
- The district filled just 79 percent of its substitute jobs, leading schools to scramble and teachers to double up their classes.
- Research shows teacher truancy is closely tied to student attendance, academic performance and the culture in a school.
The problem stems from teachers who misuse sick days. In one particularly egregious case, an employee logged 37 absences and was counseled for the seventh straight year for using too much sick time. In other cases, teachers have scheduled “sick days” weeks in advance.
“That was concerning to us because looking at the data, how do you know you’re going to be sick the next day, the next week or in a month?” said a district personnel analyst.
In short, some teachers are using sick days to extend their vacations or enjoy long weekends, which has led to constant staffing problems in the school district.
When St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday following two snow days, Syracuse.com reports that 340 employees called in sick, and some “employees had entered a sick day into the electronic system days, weeks and in a few cases, a month prior to the holiday.”
Not only that, but a school district analysis found that teachers are most likely to get sick on Fridays and Mondays. According to that analsysis, an average of 194 employees are absent on Fridays while 168 are out on Mondays.
Already, teachers get 12 sick days and five personal days each year, which does not include summer vacation, parental leave, or long-term absences because of illness or disability.
While the problem is creating a staffing headache for the district, experts say it’s also dangerous for students, who are also more likely to miss school when their teachers do the same.
However, Syracuse City School District Superintendent Jaime Alicea reportedly has a plan to reduce teacher absenteeism. In addition to asking for doctor’s notes, teachers will also have to inform their immediate supervisor before taking a sick day.
“We’re trying to deliver the message that it’s important for them to come to work,” Alicea told Syracuse.com.