Teacher in military told to pay for sub
District also requests some Naval pay
March 4, 2004
GRAND RAPIDS -- A western Michigan school district told a teacher activated for military duty that he must cover the cost of a substitute during part of his absence and give the district some of his military pay.
At a school board meeting this week, angry teachers, students and district residents criticized the decision by administrators at Kenowa Hills Public Schools.
"Is this how you treat people that defend your country?" Tom Lovett, a teacher'* spouse and district resident, asked board members.
Barry Bernhardt, a middle school science teacher who has been in the Naval Reserve for a decade, started serving two weeks of active duty in Italy on Monday, the day of the school board meeting.
During the 10 days Bernhardt will be gone from the classroom, he will use two personal days and two compensation days, the Grand Rapids Press reported.
For the remaining six days, Bernhardt must pay the district $74 per day for the substitute teacher filling in for him and turn over the $78 in salary that he will receive each day from the Naval Reserve.
"The district missed a golden opportunity to reflect on the patriotic duty of all Americans to, in our own way, celebrate the accomplishments of the service not only of Barry, but of all the men and women who stand for our country," said Ron La Fave, a Kenowa Hills teacher.
Schools Superintendent Jim Gillette said the district was following the law when it crafted its agreement with Bernhardt. A similar agreement was drawn up on one other occasion, years earlier, when Bernhardt was assigned to Bosnia during a tour of duty.
In most other years, Bernhardt fulfilled his military assignments while on vacation, Gillette said.
"It'* inaccurate to say we didn't do anything for him. We did provide significant assistance," the superintendent said, adding that the district continues to provide Bernhardt with all his other benefits during his absence.
Bernhardt will give the district only six days' worth of his military pay, and he also will receive a military housing allowance.
When compared to employees of private companies, the district is doing what it should to protect Bernhardt'* financial stability, Gillette said.
"It'* a fact that he'* not losing money, that he'* making money. Whatever way you look at it, he'* still making money," he said.
In neighboring Grand Rapids Public Schools, teachers called to duty receive two weeks of unpaid leave but are not required to pay for a substitute teacher.
As a result of Bernhardt'* situation, Kenowa Hills school board members now are likely to create a specific policy covering employee military leave.
"In the future, he'* not going to get out that well," Gillette said.
I think he should told them pack sand.