ASD teachers have pay docked for Glenn Hwy traffic mess

Published: Mar. 26, 2018 at 10:32 PM AKDT
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Editor's Note: This story has been modified by corrected information from Providence Hospital. Caregivers who either reported to work late or did not come in were expected to take PTO (paid time off).

Thursday morning, thousands of drivers sat in traffic for hours after closure of the inbound Glenn Highway near Eagle River. An 18-wheeler collided with an overpass the day before, causing extensive damage to the bridge and the road below.

The massive traffic delays cost thousands of people lost time. For some teachers in the Anchorage School District, it may have also cost them money from their paychecks.

Several ASD teachers said Monday they were frustrated because students were given an excused absence on the first day of the road closure, but teachers are being penalized if they missed the day.

Todd Hess, Chief Human Resource Officer for the Anchorage School District, sent an email to teachers Thursday afternoon saying if school employees were unable to attend work that day because of the road closure, they would either have to take a paid personal leave day or not get paid at all.

Cindy Poteet, a Service High School teacher, said she was commuting from Chugiak on Thursday. Poteet said after being stuck in traffic for three hours, she decided to give up and turn around.

"Even by the time I made it in, I would have missed half the day or close to all of the day," said Poteet.

A teacher who did not want be identified for fear of retaliation wrote in an email to Channel 2 News, "This is just another example of how ASD could care less about their teachers. It feels like yet another slap in the face to all of us who try so hard to do a good job for our city and its children."

Another teacher wrote, "Children's absences were excused, parents were excused for not bringing children in when it was deemed unsafe, but the teachers needed to figure it out and 'plan accordingly.'"

The teacher who also asked that their name be withheld for fear of retaliation wrote, "There was zero sympathy or working with us for our 'higher ups.' Principals, yes....ours tried, but when it’s out of their hands, there isn’t much they can do. It just feels like another showing of how little our teachers are valued. It’s sad."

Chief Human Resource Officer Todd Hess said the protocol was according to the teachers' contract.

In response to the complaints, Hess said, "We appreciate the efforts of all of our employees and their attempts to get to work. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, some of our employees were not able to and all we ask is that individuals that did not make it to work follow the appropriate leave procedures as described in the collective bargaining agreement and ASD Policy."

To compare, Channel 2 News checked with Providence Alaska Medical Center, which along with ASD is one of the biggest employers in the city.

Providence officials told us caregivers who did not make it last week due to road closures were expected to take PTO (paid time off).

Todd Klaameyer, Anchorage Education Association President, said the district followed the contract rules, but the union understands the teachers' complaints.

"There is quite a level of injustice where this is no one's fault," said Klaameyer. "To be penalized for having to burn personal leave or in this case where they did not have personal leave to kind of take a day without pay just rubs the wrong way."