Volusia School Board's John Hill Ignites Firestorm In Pointing Out No. of Days Teachers Absent

 

By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Volusia County School Board member John Hill has ignited yet another another firestorm of controversy by calculating thew total number of absences by teachers during the the last school year. And on the surface, it's a whopper of a figure: 50,000 days.

Michael Tomlinson, teacher and football coach at Mainland High School wasn't pleased with Hill's numbers crunching exercise.

"Congratulations! I have been teaching in Volusia County for 27 years and have witnessed scores of school board members over the decades. I say congratulations to you because you have won the all time worst school board member I have ever witnessed in all my years," Tomlinson responded. "You have no clue of what teamwork, esprit de corps, or true leadership means. You post flippant comments that are derisive and counter productive to getting great things done. You sound like a little spoiled child who is angry because you aren't getting enough attention. Real leaders who are men and women of honor don't lower themselves to these tactics. But obviously you don't understand this." 

Tomlinson is among at least a couple dozen teachers who have reacted angrily to Facebook posts by Hill in three successive days, the first on Aug. 12,  that had a small graphic image with the figure 50,000 followed by three exclamation points. 

Then Hill came back the second day with a large graphic that had the figure 50,000 with this teaser of a question: "Equals What???????" On the third and final successive day, Hill had the same 50,000 figure, but this time, the figure was in a graphic showing an airplane flying with a banner that had 50,000 written on it.

Mainland teacher & coach Mike Tomlinson / Headline Surfer"Congratulations! I have been teaching in Volusia County for 27 years and have witnessed scores of school board members over the decades. I say congratulations to you because you have won the all time worst school board member I have ever witnessed in all my years," Mainland High School teacher and coach Mike Tomlinson responded. "You have no clue of what teamwork, esprit de corps, or true leadership means. You post flippant comments that are derisive and counter productive to getting great things done. You sound like a little spoiled child who is angry because you aren't getting enough attention. Real leaders who are men and women of honor don't lower themselves to these tactics. But obviously you don't understand this." 

Tomlinson is among at least a couple dozen teachers who have reacted angrily to Facebook posts by School Board member John Hill in three successive days, the first on Aug. 12,  that had a small graphic image with the figure 50,000 followed by three exclamation points. Then Hill came back the second day with a large graphic that had the figure 50,000 with this teaser of a question: "Equals What???????" On the third and final successive day, Hill had the same 50,000 figure, but this time, the figure was in a graphic showing an airplane flying with a banner that had 50,000 written on it.

And Hill finally explained what it was all about: "It may have been the morale or it could have been sickness or various other reasons, but this was the number of sick days last year for Volusia County teachers. I can't tell you the number of times that I was contacted about students sitting in a cafeteria for most of the day because multiple teachers called out sick. It seemed to be mostly on Mondays and Fridays. I feel that this is part of the problem with our school grade and must be addressed!"

School Board membersJohn Hill puts out teacher absences at 50,000 / Headline SurferPhotos for Headline Surfer / School Board member John Hill's Facebook postings on teacher absences were posted on three consecutive days last month, leading up to the first day of school.

Hill continued, "! I will ask our Superintendent to place this topic on the agenda to discuss publicly. We want better schools and better performance and it starts with being present and not ABSENT. "

Then the second-year school board member from DeLand appeared to take a defensive posture, in response to posts by Mainland's Tomlinson and other teachers, stating, "This post was never intended to cast judgment or insinuate that people don't get sick or have a right to be sick. I only stated the data which I publicly requested regarding teacher sick time. It only reflects sick days and does not incorporate professional development, teacher training, or any other scheduled time off. I will get clarity if this includes disability or family medical leave."

Katy Fay, a teacher who lives in Edgewater questioned Hill's timing, asking, "This is what you choose to post the day before our students and teachers and administrators return to school?"

Fay didn't stop there, continuing to hammer Hill with a series of rapid-fire questions: Our students, who are eager, though nervous, to resume their studies? Our teachers who are excited yet nervous, wondering if they've prepared enough, knowing that it will never be enough? Our administrators who have spent their summer preparing to help students AND staff achieve? And how about the parents of these students? Do you think they want to see their school board representative start off the school year with an unwarranted attack on teachers, or would they prefer to see at least some pretense of a positive, proactive attitude. What do you hope to gain by continuing this adversarial role."

Headline Surfer reached out to Hill this afternoon for an explanation. He said the enormity of the absences needs to be "addressed," but declined to say whether it was in response to teacher "sick outs" during the heat of the negotiations with the union over demands for teacher raises, a situation that led to the school board declaring an impasse against the teachers over the summer before the two sides hammered out a new contract that called for modest raises. 

"I'm not trying to be difficult I am just wanting to be clear and precise when this is discussed," Hill said, which he plans to bring up at the next School Board meeting on Sept. 13.

Union head Andrew Spar: Hill's figure over-inflated

Andrew Spar, head of the teachers union, told Hill the 50,000 days worth of absences is "over-inflated.

 "I must say, I was surprised to learn that you apparently over-inflated the number of days teachers were absent by more than 7,000 days," Spar wrote on Hill's Facebook page, drawing no response from the school board member. " You stated that teachers were out sick 50,000 days and it turns out it was less than 43,000.

"The total number of teachers in the district last year was nearly 4,600 and the numbers show that as a whole, teachers did not use more days than were allocated," said Spar, who represent nearly half of them. "Also included in those days are things like workers compensation, teachers who use sick days for maternity or adoption, teachers who are out for surgery, cancer treatment, heart issues,and other long term illnesses. Teachers are allocated 10 days of sick leave per year. Which is 1 day per month. Most teachers do not even come close to using all their days. I think it is important to be honest in the information that is put on social media, or anywhere for that matter, and it is very disappointing that you chose to put out inaccurate and incomplete information the day before the school year began.

Spar added, "Teachers do not get paid vacation time. They do get a total of 6 paid holidays a year (Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Years Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Memorial Day), but no paid vacation time. I think the real conversation should be, why are teachers out and who is covering, or in some cases, not covering, the classroom when they are out. People get sick and teachers are no exception, especially when you consider they work with children everyday and kids get sick too!"

Brenda Mathewson, a second grade teacher at Coronado Beach Elementary School, reacted to the figure by Hill, as if trying to justify the 50,000 days worth of teacher absences, by stating in part, "If the administration didn't put undo stress on us, maybe we'd be at school more often. I had saved YEARS of sick time only to end up on FMLA due to stress. I used every hour I had earned. More than 12 weeks of time.

Cathy Danwill Cohen of West Volusia said she understood why Hill brought up the absences.

" What it sounds like to me is "If the shoe fits wear it," Cohen said. "Some (people) are obviously taking advantage of their sick days, while others aren't. At our office, we get 10 days for a whole year. It's not setting a good example for students."

 

 

 

 

"Volusia County School Board meets Sep. 13 in DeLamd / Headline SurferNext School Board Meeting:

 
5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, Board Room of the DeLand Administrative Complex, 200 North Clara Avenue, DeLand.
 
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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com for a decade now. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards in print anddigital platforms. Frederick is enrolled at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's three-fourths through the online Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation is in August.