By Amanda Tonoli
Teachers are not leading by example with individual attendance rates as low as 51 percent since school began, said Youngstown City Schools CEO Krish Mohip.
But, when compared with districts of similar size, city teachers’ overall attendance rates compare favorably.
Youngstown City Schools’ current 93 percent teacher-attendance rate is actually 12 percent higher than that of another large local school district, Austintown, which has an 81 percent attendance rate.
When compared with Lorain City Schools, another large district that is also in academic emergency and under the auspices of House Bill 70, attendance rates are similar.
House Bill 70, commonly referred to as the Youngstown Plan, was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in July 2015. It enables a state-appointed academic distress commission to hire a CEO – Mohip in Youngstown – to lead the district. The bill gives Mohip complete operational, managerial and instructional control.
Salaries for the approximately 400 teachers in Youngstown range from $30,483 for entry level to $69,275 for top scale. The budget for teacher salaries this year is about $43.6 million.
In the 2015-16 school year, which encompasses 183 days in a nine-month span, teachers missed a combined 6,605 days. On average, teachers missed about 14 days per instructor that year, about 7 percent of the school year.
The most days missed by individual teachers were 159, 115 and 109 days, making their attendance rates about 13, 37 and 40 percent.
In the 2016-17 school year, teachers missed a combined 7,794 days. On average, teachers missed about 15 days per teacher that year, 8 percent of the school year.
The most days missed by individual teachers last year were 120, 106, and 93 days making their attendances, about 35, 42 and 48 percent.
The current records for the 2017-18 school year, which go through October, reveal teachers have missed a combined 1,253 days.
On average, teachers have missed about three days per teacher as of October, 7 percent of the school year.
The most days missed by individual teachers so far this year were 22, 20 and 17 days, making their attendances about 51, 56 and 63 percent.
But Mohip said in a district in the middle of a transformation, he needs teachers to come to work.
On Oct. 7, Mohip sent teachers an email stating: “Our teacher attendance rate is lower than expected. We need teachers to work with our children every day. Students’ ability to grow is minimized when they are not in front of a high quality teacher. As a district we are hovering around a 90 percent teacher attendance rate [this excludes the professional development days]. I will be setting up one-on-one conferences with any employee whose attendance rate is less than 90 percent thus far this year.”
Mohip’s efforts to increase teacher attendance, however, have been met with resistance because of what some say is his leadership style.
Larry Ellis, Youngstown Education Association teachers’ union president, said with Mohip’s dictatorial attitude toward educators, teachers are worn down and getting sick.
“They’re feeling harassed,” he said.
In an Oct. 8 email to Ellis, Mohip furthered:
“The purpose of the discussion is not to gain information where discipline, demotion or other adverse consequences to the employee’s job status or working conditions are a possible result, but rather to recognize the distinct differences in teacher profiles so that I may realize the external factors affecting teacher attendance, which I will attempt to alleviate.”
Mohip continued to reiterate that the purpose of the meetings is to “gain a better understanding of the obstacles individual teachers face in maintaining a high level of attendance so that [he] may provide them additional support.”
Again Mohip stated teachers were not required to come and explain their conduct and they were more than welcome to bring union representation with them.
Despite the pushback, Mohip said he plans to carry out the one-on-one meetings to try to support teachers and boost their attendance.
Lorain, which employs a similar number of teachers, has a comparatively similar teacher-absence rate: As of October, the 495-teacher district’s records reveal teachers have missed a combined 1,456 days.
On average, Lorain teachers have missed about three days per teacher as of October, 7 percent of the school year.
Austintown schools, another large local school district that employs 325 teachers, actually has a higher teacher-absence rate than Lorain or Youngstown.
As of October, Austintown’s records reveal teachers have missed more than 2,500 days.
On average, teachers have missed about eight days per teacher as of October, 19 percent of the school year.