Elk River Teachers ‘Donate’ $255,000 Weekly to School District for Extra Time

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Photos from the live feed broadcast of the meeting

SPECIAL NOTE: IN AN ATTEMPT TO CONSOLIDATE TWO BLOGS I AM PUBLISHING THIS PIECE FROM SEVEN YEARS AGO. WHILE IT MIGHT BE A ‘THROWBACK’ IT IS STILL EXTREMELY PERTINENT AND CURRENT.

On February 10, 2014 I had the honor of representing the teachers of the Elk River School District (Minnesota) and presenting a check to our district’s School Board in the amount of $255,000. It was literally a big check, created by an elementary teacher, and it was meant to remind the leadership of our district how much extra time teachers put in each week.

In the week since presenting it, I’ve received quite a response from my fellow teachers and the community. Everybody has been grateful and considerate, but what strikes me the most is the difference in response between teachers and, pretty much, everybody else. “Are you sure that’s right?” is what most teachers say, followed by, “Only 10 hours a week? That seems so low compared to what I put in.” I’d have to agree with that comment. I know that I clocked 18 hours that week and it was a slow week. The comment from non-teachers is an interesting contrast. They tend to say, “Are you kidding me? Teachers put in 10 extra hours each week?” And it’s said with legitimate shock and usually some level of disgust. Because then those non-teachers usually say, “That’s a lot of extra time put in each week. I don’t think people realize it.”

Which is why we presented the check to a School Board that is pretty much made up of non-teacher members. It was well receivd by most Board members I’d say, from my perspective at the podium. I made sure to achieve solid eye contact with them as I read my speech, and I had my teacher eyes on to see if I could read them. One member seemed quite annoyed at the whole thing and it’s not much of a surprise. The Board member who was taking the place of the Board Chair that night was very gracious and even mugged with the check to the television camera after I presented it to her.

Where’s the check now? Good question. One of the Board members commented, “I wish that was real,” as I handed it to the chairwoman…and I wish I’d said this at the time, but it’s very real. As I did say in my speech, the check is for time already given to the district and, since the survey was conducted, there has been another million dollars of money “donated” by the teachers.

Read my speech for more details below: 

“Greetings Board Members, Superintendent, Administrators, Teachers, Staff, Students and Members of the Public. My name is Ron Hustvedt and I am a middle school social studies teacher at Salk Middle School. It is my esteemed privilege to be here tonight on behalf of the educators of ISD#728 and the Elk River Education Association. As all of you know, the educators of our school district are a very hard working group of professionals who are passionate about educating our students, passionate about supporting our schools, passionate about teaching. We do what is necessary and then go above and beyond to do what is amazing.

A few months ago, chatting with a friend of mine, who is also a parent of three students in our district, she said something along the lines of, “Well you get to leave at 3:30 so that gives you lots of extra time I’m sure.” With a smile on my face I challenged her to check out our school parking lot at 3:30. And then at 4:30. And then at 5:30. I’ve worked with each of her three children over the years and reminded her of the times she’s seen me at school after 3:30. I asked her to go through the emails she gets from teachers, check when their websites are updated, and when her Parent Portal app beeps with grade updates. As a manager at a Fortune 500 company in downtown Minneapolis, she knows the value of employees putting in extra time. “I wish more of our people put in that much extra time,” she said.

It’s easy to forget how much extra time goes into the profession of being a professional educator. It’s easy to forget that the work we do during our contract is just a portion of the work necessary to do a good job. So we put the question to our teachers. For one week, keep track of the extra time you spend on school work. With over 400 teachers responding, the average teacher registered over 10 hours of extra time per week. This was from January 10 to 17, a fairly average work week. There weren’t any snow days, it was not the end of a grading period. If it had been, the average would be even higher.

We asked teachers what they do with their additional time and it’s amazing to think all that’s accomplished. This time is spent: writing lesson plans, calling and emailing parents, reviewing student assessments, writing individual education plans, collaborating with coworkers, grading student work, meeting with students and parents, working on classroom webpages, and developing SmartBoard lessons. We are professionals. This is a necessity of our job as we see it and we often go to sleep knowing that there’s more to do.

According to our calculations, if you round down the average time spent to 10 hours per teacher, multiply by 850 teachers and apply an hourly rate of $30 an hour you come up with a total donation of $255,000 for one week of our extra service. Everyone has value, and I’d say that a $255,000 donation each week is one heckuva value. During the Super Bowl and Olympics they talk about the need to give 110%. Teachers putting in 10 extra hours a week actually calculates to 125% of the time for which they are actually paid.

Taken over the school year, this is at the minimum, a $10 million value added benefit to the community for 350,000 additional work hours. This $255,000 dollar check is a symbol of the gift of time given each week, to the students, the district, and the community, by the 850 educators who make up the Elk River Education Association. This is what we do. It’s what we will continue to do to educate, inspire, and empower our diverse learners, to shape their futures, to accomplish their dreams and to contribute positively to our local and global communities. Thank you very much.”

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