Minister: Amendment To Shorten School Year

September 14, 2013

To implement the furlough days — which will shorten the school year by five days — an amendment to Rule 11(1) of the Education Rules 2006 was implemented, Economic Development Minister Dr. Grant Gibbons said yesterday [Sept 13] in the House of Assembly.

A few weeks ago all six Unions agreed to what amounted to a 4.6% deduction in their overall package, with employees set to receive one unpaid and un-worked day per month. This is estimated to save $21 million in the first year, Government said.

“While our education union stakeholders were concerned about the implications of any loss of instructional time, there was full agreement that the only way to meet the terms of the MOU was for a simultaneous furlough of staff, thus shortening the school year,” said Dr. Gibbons.

“The net result is that students will only lose two days of classroom time and educators will forgo three days of professional development and administrative time.

“This was certainly not an easy decision for anyone. However, in light of the present fiscal realities and the BTUC proposal to do their part, this was the best that we could do to meet the requirements of the MOU.”

Shadow Education Minister Walton Brown previously said the announcement that the school year will be shortened by five days was “nothing short of a travesty.” Mr Brown said, “The message being sent by this government is that our children and their progress is not their priority.”

Minister Gibbon’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, Members of this Honourable House will be aware that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government of Bermuda and The Bermuda Trade Union Congress (BTUC) was signed on the 22nd of July 2013. The Bermuda Union of Teachers and the Bermuda Public Services Union, which represent Principals, are members of the BTUC and signatories to that MOU.

Amongst several initiatives that were agreed, public officers are required to take unpaid, unworked, furlough days.

Mr. Speaker, during the consultation with the Bermuda Union of Teachers and the Bermuda Public Services Union that followed the signing of the MOU, it was agreed that it would be impossible for schools to manage ‘rolling furlough’ days for staff, particularly in light of the ongoing issues regarding the disruption to teaching and learning and the financial cost of the provision of coverage for absence related to professional development, illness and maternity leave. Additionally, expenditure for substitute teachers to cover furlough absences would largely negate any savings from unworked, unpaid days.

Therefore, it was agreed that in order for educators to comply with the MOU, the school year would have to be shortened so that all educators and other affected school staff furlough at the same time.

To implement the furlough days and meet the terms of that MOU, an amendment to Rule 11(1) of the Education Rules 2006 which establishes that, “the school year shall be two hundred teaching days, was required. That amendment was published on August 30th and today ‘laid’ in the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, while our education union stakeholders were concerned about the implications of any loss of instructional time, there was full agreement that the only way to meet the terms of the MOU was for a simultaneous furlough of staff, thus shortening the school year.

I am thankful to our union partners, the BUT and the BPSU, who worked with us to ensure this arrangement results in the least impact possible on teaching and learning.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members will be aware that educators work ten months of the year but are paid over twelve. Therefore, the pro-rated equivalent furlough days for educators for the remainder of this fiscal year is five days.

Mr. Speaker, in determining the furlough days, we looked at the Christmas vacation and end of the school year. Additionally, our union stakeholders agreed to job embedded professional development and gave up their professional development days which will now be used as furlough days. This was a massive concession when it is considered that school would have already been closed during those days.

We have already communicated to the public and school administrators what the new school year will look like. However for the information of Honourable Members, the following will occur:

  • The Christmas break will occur one day earlier – Thursday, 19 December,
  • The Administrative Day that was to occur on Wednesday 19 February will now occur on Monday 6 January, meaning that students will return one day later from Christmas break – Tuesday 7 January.
  • Monday 17 – Wednesday 19 February will now be furlough days as opposed to professional development and an administrative day.
  • Finally, school will end one day earlier in June. Students’ last day of school will now be Wednesday 25 June, with teachers finishing on Friday, 27 June. Therefore, Monday, 30th June will be a furlough day.

Mr. Speaker, the net result is that students will only lose two days of classroom time and educators will forgo three days of professional development and administrative time. This was certainly not an easy decision for anyone. However, in light of the present fiscal realities and the BTUC proposal to do their part, this was the best that we could do to meet the requirements of the MOU.

I ask principals, teachers, students, parents and the community to support us as we work at every level to give the best to our children during this school year.

Thank you.

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Comments (19)

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  1. lifetime says:

    Is that your final answer? Or are you jokers gonna change your mind tomorrow?

  2. Vote for Me says:

    Note to anyone
    Can you explain the 5 days calculation? Basically, all public servants take one day off per month and will take 12 days off during the year.

    Teachers and principals work 10 months per year and will therefore take 10 days off during the year.

    For the 2013(14) school year, there are 7 months in this fiscal year (September to March). Therefore there should be 7 days off (1 day per month).

    If these calculations are correct, the school year needs to be shortened by a further 2 days.

    If you extend the calculations, the full school year needs to be shortened by a total of 10 days (one day per month) but it has only been shortened by 5 days thus far.

    I expect that many minds have made the calculation so I trust someone will explain for all of us.

    A note to the teachers and principals – will you be deducted 1 days pay in December, 1 days pay in January, 2 (or 3) days pay in February and 1 days pay in June?? If I am getting everything correct, you will have a big deduction in February to account for those vacation and professional development days.

    • logistics says:

      I wondered about how the # of days was determined also but I think it may possibly be based on the core working hours on a normal school day vs PD days which would be longer.
      (Core hours being the hours the teacher is actually paid for not those extra hours they spend doing extra curricular work at school)

      • You people have no idea!!!! says:

        The extra curricular work should be put into our school day/hours, we spend it doing work preparing for the next days and even weeks. Also they will be taking 12 days worth of pay but only giving us 5 days off. Now don’t get me wrong teachers would rather be working despite what you my hear and feel. But we voted for 12 days not 5!!! However I agree that 12 days less of school isn’t a good thing but when you compare public to private we are in school more than they are so what’s the big deal!!! They have 2 weeks for Easter we have one. I guess Private schools don’t follow the same Education act as we do. Also if you add up the hours teachers put in the hours W&E put in we work way more hours than they do a work day but they are getting their days.

  3. Love BDA Education says:

    What will be really funny is when the professional development (PD) hours that teachers are required to have (35 hours or something like that) for relicensing are not completed because they were not paid to do their PD.

    I’m a teacher so trust me, most teachers are not thinking ahead about this nor will they be doing the PD on their own time (for the most part). Significant hours are given during required PD days.

    So, in short, my prediction is:

    Teachers won’t be able to be relicensed due to lack of PD hours. Thus, the Bermuda Educator’s Council will have to flip-flop again on their one rule for maintaining a license to teach OR there will be no teachers come September 2014.

    • You people have no idea!!!! says:

      Don’t worry we will be fine Ministry colleague. I believe they will still find a way to provide us with PD.

  4. justMYopinion says:

    We will be deducted once per month like everyone else even though our days ‘off’ fall differently…..

    • Vote for Me says:

      Hi – that can not be the case (being deducted 1 day per month) since you are to be deducted 5 days but there are 7 months to go in this financial year (Sept to March). Perhaps you can contact a union official (BUT or BPSU) to help us with this dilemma.

  5. Errin Butterfield says:

    The real Minister in charge of Education has spoken

    • RME says:

      That’s what happens when your Education Minister is not even a Member of Parliament.

  6. Mazumbocann says:

    “Mr. Speaker, the net result is that students will only lose two days of classroom time”…………….

    Did I miss something?

    The Christmas break will occur one day earlier – Thursday, 19 December,
    The Administrative Day that was to occur on Wednesday 19 February will now occur on Monday 6 January, meaning that students will return one day later from Christmas break – Tuesday 7 January.
    Finally, school will end one day earlier in June. Students’ last day of school will now be Wednesday 25 June

    This adds up to three days of classroom time to me.
    Wait. Add in the Christmas party and end of school picnic the net result is that students will only lose five days of classroom time.

  7. Laine says:

    With civil servants being forced into an ‘agreement’ which could have been worse,how could the government make the recent decision regarding foreign worker???? That means less money now. I am sure someone will try and defend. But if your pay was cut,that explanation would probably nit be accepted at this time.

  8. Contrary to the views of many that have expressed themselves,but no-one seems to be looking at the big picture i.e. the estimated saving of $21 million…
    Why is it we see still, so much hate?guess what,it’s them with complacent attitudes that make people make mistakes. The Govt. has enough money to do somethings but not enough $ to do everything therefore we must cut where possible…As once said,”peace is not the absences of troubles…peace is not allowing them troubles to upset you”. And thats what we all must focus upon. “Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% of how we respond to it”

    • Scorpio says:

      I understand that but I’m irritated that only GOV workers are suffering with this pay cut, unless I missed something.

      • Sandy Bottom says:

        Yes, you missed something. The rest of us have been taking cuts and job losses for years while government workers have had guaranteed employment and wage increases.

  9. SMH says:

    I may be wrong…..but EVERYONE will be duducted 4.6% monthly including teachers but not everyone will get a day off each month…at least teachers won’t. Why…schools only open 10 months and the unions and Government agreed to minimize the loss of instructional time for students. So they chose 5 days when there would normally be NO teaching going on (PD days and last day of school). Not a bad solution as teschers have more paid vacation and a shorter work day than other civil servants.

  10. Scorpio says:

    I don’t have paid vacation SMH. Our 10 month salary was just stretched for 12 months. We would still get the same yearly amount if we were paid September to June. And what short hour day. What teacher do you know that leaves school at 3:30. I WISH!!!!!! None of my colleagues leave work at 3:30. So please don’t get it twisted. We work the same or more than some civil servants. And don’t get me started on W&E workers.

  11. Maurice says:

    It is a fallacy that teachers get paid vacation. In actuality teachers are paid for 200 days of work. This amount is then spread over a twelve month period.
    This in my mind will put teachers at a distinct disadvantage as obviously 1 days pay deducted will be much higher than other civil servants who are actually paid for the entire year.
    A teacher would probably lose the entire months salary after about ten no- pay days in a month.
    I stand corrected if I am wrong.

  12. Tommy Chong says:

    So our new governments idea of educational reform is to take away two full days of education when Bermuda’s children have way too many free days as it is. What happened to plans of extending the school day? Was this yet another empty promise?

    Direct quote from oba’s site, “We believe that the quality of a child’s education should not be determined by their parent’s income.” So does this mean that private schools will also have 2 days less education? I bet there will be no camps available to supplement these two extra days just as there are non when school decides to break in the middle of the week. Parents will either have to sacrifice two days or as many seem to do have their kids aimlessly roam around so that Idle hands are allowed the potential to be the Devil’s playground.