Sept. 8, 2005 – "It was a very good day," Maria Encarnacion, principal of Pearl B. Larsen School in Christiansted, said Thursday.
Wednesday was not a very good day. Of the 74 employees at the school, only six showed up for work.
Encarnacion said it was indicated to her that the teachers were protesting the extra half hour added to their workday this year.
A similar protest was reported at the Charles H. Emmanuel Elementary. At Evelyn M Williams Elementary teachers, reportedly, left class a half hour early.
Tyrone Molyneaux, president of the St. Croix local of the American Federation of Teachers, said the actions were not sanctioned by the union, but he understood the teachers' action.
He said what bothered the teachers is that Noreen Michael, commissioner of education, "acted unilaterally" in implementing it, and teachers were never informed about it until they read about it in newspaper accounts.
He said after Aug. 10, when he was informed of the change, he began requesting a meeting with Michael and other school administrators to discuss it. After three requests, a meeting was arranged for Aug. 27. Molyneaux said, "We waited and we waited and she (Michael) never showed up."
However, he said that education department lawyers indicated they felt that the administration had not broken any laws and were sticking to the expanded workday.
The union has filed a grievance with the Department of Education and filed a request for arbitration from the V.I. Public Employee Relations Board.
Molyneaux said he believes the action by Michael was just "to get us" because of failed negotiations last January.
He said that the administration wanted more professional development days for teachers. Molyneaux said that was fine with teachers, but they wanted some kind of compensation for the days. The administration refused and the request for the five development days was dropped.
He said in a phone interview on Thursday that adding the half hour a day was like adding 15 days to the teachers' schedule.
The St. Croix teachers also were upset that the new schedule was immediately enforced on St. Croix but not on St. Thomas. Molyneaux said St. Croix administrators did not pay attention to Michael's instruction not to implement the new schedule until it was published and distributed. That was done Wednesday, a week after school had started.
Encarnacion said 15 minutes were added to the beginning of the school day and 15 minutes at the end.
Teachers now come to school at 7:25 a.m. with students arriving at 7:45 a.m. Students are dismissed at 3 p.m. and the teachers' day ends at 3:30 p.m.
Molyneaux said he was upset with what he saw as efforts by the administration to make it look like the teachers were responsible for lost instruction time. He praised teachers saying that many of them came in days before school started and were not compensated, as they cleaned, mopped and painted their rooms.
Encarnacion said she said she is not sure what the future holds. She said, "I am just taking it day to day."
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