The Truth About Hawaii's Teacher Planning Days

Fotalia

Hawaii public schoolers return to the classroom on Monday, but their teachers have already been there for days and weeks — in some cases months.

Many teachers never left campus after school ended in May.

"As a teacher, you can't just show up for class and expect to get good results," explained Debbie Arakaki, curriculum coordinator at Palolo Elementary School. "There are a lot of details involved with getting the physical environment ready and making sure you're ready for every student."

But this Thursday and Friday — the last two days before students burst back on the scene — the state has told teachers not to come to work. That's because it has no intention of paying them to do so.

It was a condition of the contract imposed on them by the state beginning July 1. The union is protesting the state's actions with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, but meanwhile, teachers must follow the new contract.

Thursday and Friday are the first two days of "directed leave without pay" — in other words, furloughs — for the coming school year. Most of Hawaii's 12,500 teachers will take seven and a half furloughs on non-instructional days. A few 12-month teachers will take off 10 days.

Some of those furloughs are designated for days otherwise set aside for preparation, collaboration and professional development. Days the Hawaii State Teachers Association fought hard to get into its members' contract. There are eight of them, total, and this year's furloughs coincide with three.

Lots of planning already happens on teachers' own time.

"Planning doesn't stop," said Christie Russell, a second-grade teacher at Palolo who has been on campus readying her classroom and lesson plans almost every day for a month. "I plan here, and then I go home and plan until midnight."

The scenes this week at both Palolo and Kaiser High School in Hawaii Kai paint a picture of what these days are all about and why teachers find them so important.

Making Kaiser I.B.

Tuesday morning, scores of teachers from the Kaiser Complex gathered in the cafeteria at Henry J. Kaiser High School to learn how to help fulfill their collective goal of becoming an International Baccalaureate complex.

When educators don't get their scheduled planning and learning time together, the learning process gets pushed back for students, too, said Kelly Bart, vice principal at Niu Valley Middle School.

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