Sunday, July 13, 2014

OUR OPINION: TEACHER’S ABC APPEARANCE Time-off policy requires makeover

January 17. 2014 11:27AM

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School boards in Luzerne County and across Pennsylvania should negotiate stricter requirements for teachers who request unpaid time off. Wilkes-Barre Area School District teacher Elise Mosca’s ability to leave her teaching job to compete on ABC TV’s reality show “The Bachelor” is a sterling example of a policy that clearly doesn’t put students first.

Mosca, a teacher at Dodson Elementary School, has been on unpaid leave since September. When the school board granted that request in September, its members didn’t know that the Forty Fort woman was abandoning her post to compete on a TV show. When it voted again last week to extend Mosca’s time-off request, though, it was well aware of the 27-year-old’s appearances on “The Bachelor” — a dating game show in which dozens of young women supposedly vie for the same eligible hunk’s heart, and perhaps a marriage proposal.

School officials say they’d already set precedent to grant time-off requests for personal reasons to teachers. While that time-off isn’t guaranteed by Mosca’s contract, to abandon precedent might have required a negotiation to change the district’s policy.

That’s a horrible precedent to set — and it has set up Wilkes-Barre’s school district for exactly this type of abuse.

With so much attention paid to Mosca’s TV appearance, the school district’s policies and Mosca’s participation in a racy video, too little attention is being paid to the students who are being deprived of a full-time teacher’s tutelage. Since Mosca’s job has been held and protected, presumably substitute teachers have been filling in during her absence. While there are many qualified, knowledgeable substitute teachers eager for a chance to educate our youth, they shouldn’t be called into work to cover for a teacher’s Hollywood ambitions.

There will be times when teachers might need to leave their posts for personal reasons. Appearing on “The Bachelor,” for romantic frolicking and rose ceremonies, is not one of them.

School boards should set more reasonable policies that safeguard the students’ educational interests from this type of abuse. Those policies should be formalized and negotiated with unions so that the benefit exists for teachers who need it. It shouldn’t be available to anyone who asks for it.

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