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Bill Bucher: Here’s why teachers sign in

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Bill Bucher

Bill Bucher

By Bill Bucher Jr.

Special to the Salisbury Post

A recent Salisbury Post article described the Rowan-Salisbury School Board’s discussions about whether to continue to require teachers to “sign in” each day, citing teacher concerns about “teachers being treated as professionals,” and justifying possible elimination of the requirement by saying “we know that they work more than 40 hours per week.”

As the school system’s former chief financial officer and one of those responsible for first implementing the current technology-based sign-in system, I feel that the whole purpose of “signing in” for teachers has been misconstrued, and the benefits of such a system have not been properly explained to the school board, teachers and the general public.

The practice of having teachers “sign in” each day actually originated decades ago when principals, who are responsible for seeing to it that classrooms and morning duties are attended to, wanted to be sure that any unexpected absences were covered immediately. In an era of ever-larger schools and repeated cuts in school-level administrative staff, the days when a principal had the time to stroll each of the halls to make sure every classroom was covered have been over for a very long time.

Then, in the mid 1990’s new technology allowed us to set up systems whereby teachers and other employees could “sign in” from their classrooms and duty stations. Far from being a needless chore, the technology was hailed at the time for being a convenience which freed teachers and others from having to “check in” at the principal’s office as many had been required to do before. Principals appreciated it because it allowed them to be instantly notified if a classroom full of students wasn’t staffed with a teacher, and to send someone to make sure that it was covered until the teacher could get there.

The system we implemented never required teachers to “sign out” at the end of a day, because it was never planned to use it to track teacher time. As Mr. Hunter has said, it is well known that teachers work many more than 40 hours per week, much of which is off-campus, so tracking their time worked on campus wouldn’t be useful to anybody. Far from treating teachers as less than professional, the systems now in place are there to avoid the need for teachers to contact the office in the event of an unexpected delay, such as an accident or family emergency. (Have you ever tried to reach the principal’s office 15 minutes before school starts?)

There are a few concrete, non-negotiable requirements for all teachers and staff members with classroom responsibilities, and one of them is to be there on time, so that students aren’t injured because they are unsupervised.

This is not just a solemn responsibility to the parents who entrust their kids to our schools, but a significat liability concern for the Board of Education.

From my experience as a school finance officer, I can certify this: Because they actually are very professional, very few teachers are ever late to work. But when they are, whether or not it is their fault, the principal must have a way to quickly identify where absences are and be equipped to immediately provide adult supervision to assure the safety of our students.

The elimination of “signing in” requirements for teachers will necessarily strip principals of a way to monitor and staff classrooms and duty stations, and add a new level of difficulty to the already difficult job of managing our schools.

Bill Bucher, Jr. is former finance officer for the Rowan-Salisbury Schools and now retired.

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