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Teacher 'sick out' forces St. Helena schools to close Monday, just days after tax proposal failed

6 months 4 weeks 5 hours ago Monday, May 08 2023 May 8, 2023 May 08, 2023 7:49 AM May 08, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

GREENSBURG - Students are being instructed to stay home in St. Helena Parish on Monday after the public school system canceled classes due to a teacher "sick out" triggered by a pair of failed tax proposals that would have provided more funding for schools. 

Instead of going to class Monday, school employees participated in a parade outside Greensburg Market, culminating in a protest outside the parish courthouse that morning. 

"It's about having technology for our babies everyday, dual enrollment classes for our kids everyday. It's about providing a safe environment for our kids everyday. It's about keeping our teachers that are showing up everyday to give their all. They're here before 7:30, after 5 o'clock, they're here on weekends when you don't even know about it. Then you have the time to go and bash them? I'm so sick and tired of being sick and tired," district employee Donna Jackson said.

On Sunday, school officials said the closure could extend deeper into the week, and they are not certain if graduation ceremonies will go on as scheduled.

It comes just over a week after the parish voted a down a pair of tax proposals that would have funneled more money into the school system, namely teacher pay. Those proposals, a one-percent sales tax and a property tax, both failed to pass in the April 28 election. 

Monday morning, the St. Helena Superintendent Dr. Kelli Joseph issued the following statement to WBRZ: 

We hope classes will resume tomorrow but we honestly don’t know at this point. We will meet with everyone later today to discuss next steps. 
Every school function, including graduations, cannot take place without our teachers. They do the work. We understand the concerns of our families regarding graduation. Their children worked hard to reach that milestone moment. But, let’s not forget it was a teacher who also worked to get them there. 
Our valuable teachers deserve to be heard and acknowledged.

The school system shared the content of a letter they received notifying them of the educators' action.

That information was included in an official cancellation notice, which is posted below:

School is cancelled for Monday, May 8, 2023, due to an Educator Sick Out Day organized by St. Helena Parish School Board employees. A letter received today (Sunday, May 7th) from our employees states:

“We as educators and employees of St. Helena Parish School District strive to create an equitable school culture while increasing learner success, developing educator effectiveness, along with building public confidence. Despite the naysayers, we afford our learners many opportunities in this school district even with limited resources.

We are shocked. The failed tax measure would have provided literacy support for our young learners, enhance school safety and technology, offer more dual enrollment opportunities, and support employee retention. It's hard to grasp why some parents, who depend on educators for everything, would deny their own children's success in the district in which they live.

We must stop hurting our children and start promoting education in our community. We would like to hear from everyone who didn't support the tax measure because the excuses we have heard so far just don't make sense. We plan to parade to Greensburg Market between 8:30am-9:00am, and then march to the Courthouse around 9:45am for a press conference. Everyone is welcome! We are interested in your thoughts.”

Due to the Educator Sick Out Day, we do not have enough substitutes to cover classes and ensure that all our learners will be safe during the school day. Moreover, we do not know if school will be cancelled on Tuesday, nor do we know if all the graduations (KN, 6th, and 12th) will take place next week.

District administrators will meet with employee representatives to discuss the matter. We will keep everyone posted. Until then, please make arrangements for your children.

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