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School board approves new employee policies
by Savannah Weeks
March 22, 2013 02:32 PM | 4280 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Fulton County Board of Education at its meeting Thursday unanimously approved a policy that will waive the school district of the state Title 20 law stating all kindergarten to fifth-grade teachers must have a 30-minute, duty-free lunch period.

The new district policy states, “The board of education requires that a 30-minute duty-free break period be afforded to teachers employed in grades kindergarten through five. In extraordinary circumstances, principals, with the approval of their supervisor, may schedule the break at a time that best serves the supervision of students and/or the acclamation of students to the school environment. This duty-free period shall not be calculated as a part of any daily planning period or other non-instructional time.”

During the public hearing period of the meeting, Kay Hutchinson, of Alpharetta, spoke out against the waiver, saying she was afraid the policy may run off talent.

“I’m sorely disappointed to see you’re asking for waivers for laws that are essentially about employee protection,” she said. “You have treated this decision far too casually. I expect my board members to ask why and get data to support such a huge decision.”

Superintendent Robert Avossa responded to the decision before the board voted, saying the decision was based on creating easier transitions for elementary school students.

“We will require the principal to notify the area superintendent to track those,” he said. “At any time, you can call and ask about it. This isn’t punitive, but there are times we have issues. We have listened to the teachers, heard comments and feedback. As a result, we’ve made these changes.”

District 4 board member Linda Bryant clarified teachers would still get a break, but it may not be during lunch.

“I would like to reiterate, it says the board requires there is a 30-minute period,” she said.

The board also approved a policy on recess, stating the principal will be responsible for determining the scheduling, timing, location and student eligibility of recess.

District 5 board member Linda McCain questioned whether the policy should be clarified for requiring that students don’t have recess taken away for specific reasons.

“At some point, we have to say, we hire teachers and professional staff, we hold them accountable,” said Avossa. “Parents can voice complaints. We can’t be so prescriptive. I feel comfortable with the language.”

District 2 board member Katie Reeves agreed with Avossa, stating the charter system designation allowed for more leeway.

“We’re kind of in a new day here — we got the charter designation. One thing we’ve had conversations about is what do we hold tight and what do we let go? I think we’re going to continue to struggle with this,” she said.

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