Letter to the Editor: Assistant School Chief Addresses “Closure” Question

Dear CDN

Workdays in public schools, especially over holiday break, provide much needed time for personnel to “get caught up” with paperwork, organization, planning, technology upgrades, maintenance and other important tasks that are often pushed aside when school is in session. When students are in school, they along with staff and parents are the main priority, not the support activities mentioned above.

Over this holiday break for students, many of these tasks are in process or have been completed. This is work that must be done and the effort of our employees to complete these tasks before students and staff return on January 3 is greatly appreciated.

For my colleagues in the Central Office, several hours of our morning was spent with paperwork and reports, followed by a collaborative effort in the adjacent building with the organization of the records room. Not overly exciting work, but again, work that must be done.

While at lunch, I reviewed the news on the CDN. I also reviewed several comments on our “closure” that need to be addressed. I am writing this for my colleagues, but with some hesitation for I know this too may draw comments. Perspectives draw comments; my perspective is to clarify what I believe is an inaccurate representation.

As we all know, budgets have been tight for several years, so with careful thought and consideration, the School Board was forced to make critical staffing considerations. The result of these cost-saving measures is that most CCPS support personnel, including secretaries and custodians, have 240-day contracts (not 247-day contracts – see below for details). For efficiency and consistency of schedules, seven days have been identified as “division closure”, meaning school and office phones (probably) will not be answered during these designated times because clerical personnel are not required to report to work. That does not mean that school employees (administrators and others) with 247-day employment contracts were given the gift of time with extended holidays. School employees are required to report to work as per their clearly stated School Board contract, in accord with their clearly identified work calendar, otherwise they are required to submit for annual leave.

Also, for those interested, 15 school employees were required to report to work today. 73% reported; the others took annual leave. 247-day employees are permitted to take their annual leave when school is not in session.

(Generally, there are 260 weekdays in a year; 52 weeks x 5 days/week. Clarke County School Board policy identifies 13 unpaid holidays each year. Therefore, there are 247 possible Monday-Friday workdays in a year; 260-13=247).


Rick Catlett

Mr. Catlett is assistant superintendent for Clarke County Public Schools.


  1. Mr. Catlett said:

    “While at lunch, I reviewed the news on the CDN”

    And I’m quite sure it was within your hour that you read and composed this email 🙂
    I hope you got a bite to eat~

    Sounds like something else to me .

    This is sincerely offensive to those who are non-expempt.

  2. Thank you for your clarification Rick– I hope this clears everything up for Robina!

  3. Conservative Guy says:

    My sister, a teacher, corrected papers over her “vacation”; She corrects paperwork at home while ‘relaxing’ watching TV; She spends her own money on materials for the classroom. How many of the self rightous out there will bring work home 4 or 5 nights a week and on top of that, spend their money providing supplies for their employer? Teachers are under paid, over worked and are for many children, the most responsible adult in their lives, and under appreciated for their efforts.

    • Naked Truth says:

      Come on. We all bring work home with us. I wish I had a salary with the federal holidays and the whole summer off. If the teacher’s salary is not enough. they could supplement their income over the summer and work like the rest of us. I bet the teachers cry more over the thought of year round school, because they would have to work year round.

      • Jimmy Piper says:

        Naked Truth, your sarcasm is soooo over the top! Teachers should get a pat on the back because they are doing the job you cannot! Be a parent and teaching your kids!

        • Naked Truth says:

          My kids go to a private school because CC school system failed them. So I am being a parent. We all choose our professions, also.

          • In-the-Know says:

            And we can choose whether to be good, supportive parents or not…

          • David Mikolajczak says:

            Any student that is properly motivated can get the same level of education from a CC school as a private school. You are paying for inside contacts to the admissions office of prestigious schools, which will always let in an A student from CC

      • “Whole summers off”…really? It was 8 weeks…and I know quite a few who were taking classes, or working summer school for – you guessed it – extra money to help make ends meet. Others I know DO work other jobs to help cover their bills.

        When was the last time a contractor brought work home? A dentist? An eye doctor? A radio personality? A NoVA tech employee? Yes, there are many professions and jobs that require work to go home, but there are many that don’t. However, there are few that add in the pressure of grading, dealing with parents who mitch and boan when their kids get low grades, add in meetings with special needs students’ parents, add in ever more assessments and tests and data collection. I know my own kid has – at times – given his teachers something to roll their eyes about, but they’ve always treated him well yet held his nose to the grindstone. I expect nothing less from them, and I see nothing wrong with the days they work.

        Year-round school, with the days off spread across the calendar, has some merit, and perhaps would allow families to think about taking vacations at other times of the year. Maybe something to think about, but athletics could be a factor since we compete against other divisions.

        CCPS failed your kids? That’s unfortunate, and I’m glad you were able to make a different choice. However, your derisive swipe at the entirety of “teachers” is grossly unfair and uncalled for.

        • You should use your planning periods more appropriately!

          • In-the-Know says:

            Planning periods are for far more than just grading papers.
            There are constant parent meetings; IEP and other special ed meetings; phone calls to parents; filling in for teachers when a substitute is not available; team and departmental meetings; planning for the day’s and the week’s lessons; and mainly, giving time to help students to make up work or needing academic assistance. When these are finished, THEN one can sit and grade assignments.

      • Actually what I “cry more over” are the kids I see every day who get out of their parent’s car in front of the school unprepared to learn with not a book, pencil, or piece of paper in their hands. I cry when I get a note that a child’s parents have decided to take them on a vacation for two weeks in the middle of the school year and want to know what they’ll be missing, as if they don’t really need to be in class anyway. I cry for the kid who gets caught cheating on a test and the parent calls and makes it seem as if it’s the teachers fault for not making clear that cheating/plagiarism isn’t allowed. Yes there’s much for teacher’s to cry about and believe me I could give many more examples. I guess we’re lucky we have so many free days to stay home and cry!

      • Second That! says:

        What makes you think that teachers don’t have second jobs in the summer? Or during the school year if their salaries aren’t covering the bills and rising household expenses when compared with no raises?

    • You make your bed, you sleep in it.

      • Second That! says:

        I’m sorry, do you have children in our school system? Actually, are you a member of the community? Perhaps you would care a little more about the quality of the education that your kids/future community members are getting when their teachers are facing so many pressures and obligations.

  4. Wouldn’t this be another good reason for year round school? Please don’t crucify me here I’m just asking. It would give frequent breaks to catch up on paperwork and maintenance, which seems by the article to be needed. I always thought it seemed like a good idea but will admit I don’t know enough about it to say any more.

  5. clarke conservative says:

    This may be a technicality, but what is the explanation of the automated email reply CDN says they received Saturday from Dr. Murphy stating:

    “I am out of the office celebrating the wonderment of the holidays with friends and family. All schools and offices will be closed on Wednesday, December 22, 2011 through Monday, January 2, 2012, reopening on Tuesday, January 3, 2012. Have a wonderful winter break.”

    Coming from the Superintendent that sounds pretty definitive – ‘All schools and offices are closed’.

    • The School Board Office serves many functions pertaining to our local government. via the Code of Virginia.

      The CCPS office is listed by the VDOE as a resource oulet for many forms of information from Special Education to General Policy, which the code of Virgina allows general access during nnormal business hours unless approved by the loxal school board.

      Because there was no formal approval of the office closing, those who have tried to contact the office for any matters remain in the right for non access to information.

      The closing of the School Board Office is an invitation by the ACLU to those who want to access information..

  6. David Mikolajczak says:

    I noticed Conservative Guy’s post, and am totally appalled that anyone would give a thumbs down to that. Teachers work hard, and dont get paid much. Yes there was a time long ago when teaching was considered a woman;s job, and just a “second income”. Those days are long gone. If you want to hire good people, they usually require top salary. To those of you out there that feel wronged because you might not have kids or your kids are out of the house and don’t feel that your property taxes are being spent wisely, remember these two things
    1) These kids we are educating are going to be the ones that will be making important decisions when we are all in the nursing home, rocking chair whatever.
    2) You get what you pay for..

  7. just the facts..PLEASE says:

    This administration has consistently under preformed and the song is always the same…….its someone else’s fault………throwing more money at the problem will not fix it….but that is the only solution they EVER have.

    I say it is time for the School Board to CLEAN HOUSE at Clarke County Public Schools Central Office.!!! We deserve better leadership and RESULTS from some of the County’s most highly compensated employees.

    • Since CDN didn’t post my last reply I will try to be more politically correct. You my friend have shown a sever lack of intelligence in the above post. ” throwing more money at the problem will not fix it” . really

      The last 4 year have been nothing but cuts in the administration and the jobs is still getting done with more hours , weekends, and constant phone calls when they are out of the office

    • I rember this subject coming up about the last administration, you can’t just clean house everytime there is a problem. Or is the problem the County Administration and the former scholl board, alot of good educators were forced to leave or left because they would not work for the incoming school board. If you want results let the educators do their jobs without the interfearance of part time polititians looking to make a name for themselvs or who claim to be educators.

  8. Oh…what do we have for Mr. $135K/year County Administrator? Mr. Ash supervises 2/3 less staff than Dr. Murphy, yet is paid as much if not a notch more than him. Please…this division has done a LOT with the demands (and reduced local and state funding) it’s had to work with.

  9. Tammy Lanham says:

    Thank you, Mr. Catlett, for clarifying the need for workdays and confirming the fact that Clarke County’s school personnel are indeed trustworthy and hardworking individuals whose contracted leave time is no mystery.

    And thank ALL of the teachers, administrators, support staff and school volunteers who, due to budget cuts are doing MORE WORK THAN EVER to ensure the children in Clarke County are receiving a great education.

    I dare say the majority of the readers of CDN and residents of Clarke County know perfectly well our dedicated Superintendent and his staff, school administrators and teachers spend countless extra hours working at home, in meetings, coaching students after school and supporting our students ’round the clock, weekends and evenings with NO EXTRA pay.

    To all school employees: definitely enjoy your time with friends and family!! THANK YOU for ALL you do!!!

    To those who don’t understand the need for time “off”: try just once to imagine the extra hours spent OUTSIDE the “office”… grading exams, reviewing science fair projects and planning ahead for SOL pre-tests and evaluations… contacting parents, community members and colleagues to help students and our schools improve…………. planning ahead for co-curricular elementary events like “100 Days of School” or special theme days ………….or coordinating the upcoming HS and MS drama production—— extra conditioning practices for athletes—– school competitions coached by teachers—–oh- and preparing for the upcoming budget battle.

    Do you really think our school employees are really slacking? Shame on all three or four of you. Hundreds more of us disagree.

    • In-the-Know says:

      Thanks for your constant, astute understanding of what really goes on.
      And thanks for sending us intelligent, caring children to instruct!
      Keep up the great work in 2012!

    • livein22611 says:

      People are not commenting or complaining about time off for All employees, just the extra days that the superintendent has given to central office personnel. These are full-time employees who have contracts with vacation time specified. Closing the offices gives this select group more vacation time than stated in their contracts. Does this mean the superintendent will now grant extra vacation days to the rest of the division?? I seriously doubt it. I’m sure every teacher in the division would like an extra 3-5 days off. And frankly, they should now demand it!! This superintendent has shown a total disregard for his own contract and now he is dragging the central office folks into it. Yes, most in the division work hard, but is that an excuse to ignore the contract you signed? Would that work in any other job? No. Why don’t a few of you try going in and telling your boss you know you signed a contract for ?? vacation days but you decided that’s not enough and you’re taking a few extra.
      Frankly, if I were a CC teacher I’d be a bit miffed that some are getting special treatment. Teachers work just as hard, if not harder, than administrators. Give them extra days off too!!

      • “Also, for those interested, 15 school employees were required to report to work today. 73% reported; the others took annual leave. 247-day employees are permitted to take their annual leave when school is not in session.”

        What part of the above information provided by Mr. Catlett do you fail to comprehend? Those who weren’t at work took appropriate leave, and the rest reported as they were supposed to do. Honestly…just because RRB cries about something does not make it factual or legit. Very often, it’s the opposite.

  10. Dag gone! Did you people not read the response from Mr. Catlett! People are working and the one’s that are not working–used the proper procedures in getting this time approved off! READ THE STORY PEOPLE!

  11. livein22611 says:

    Please believe everything you read and never check up on any of it yourselves. Just believe everything you are told. But hey, only a few more hours and you won’t be able to blame everything on RRB! Then what will you do? What conspiracy theory will you come up with next? Good thing you were all right about how she was blocking construction of the new HS!
    May your eyes be opened in 2012 and may you be able to start thinking on your own.

  12. I did check up on it–rode by the administrative offices! Seen cars there all week of people that I personally know that work there. Good Day!