School staffers aren't happy with the superintendent's choice and urge her to pick another day to make up for missing school from Wilma.
INVERNESS - Don't count on Pam Woznicki being at school on Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving.
That was supposed to be an off day for the school system. Woznicki, a physical education teacher at Inverness Primary School, made plans to spend the long holiday weekend outside the state. So had Theresa Triano and other staffers at the Renaissance Center.
They and others were dismayed when superintendent Sandra "Sam" Himmel made Nov. 23 the makeup day for Monday, when school was called off because of Hurricane Wilma.
"For those of you who may not realize it, Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year and I, like many others, have plans to be out of state," Woznicki wrote in an e-mail to Himmel. "On Nov. 23, I will be GONE!"
In e-mail after e-mail, school district employees expressed their frustration. Many employees had made plans to take the day off since the School Board long ago voted to start the Thanksgiving holiday weekend on Nov 23.
But what many didn't seem to know is that the board had also designated the date as a hurricane makeup day.
Despite the pleas, Himmel said she will not change the day. Earlier Thursday, Himmel had praised the district's support workers for their commitment to students during a training session featuring a reknown motivational speaker.
In an lengthy e-mail to staff, Himmel said the only other day to make up missed days is Nov. 11, Veterans Day. Last year, students had to make up four days after the storms caused schools to close. One of those days was Veterans Day. Himmel said she doesn't want that to happen again.
"Nov. 23 was selected based on a priority of honoring our veterans on the November 11 Veterans Day Holiday," Himmel wrote. "Last year, our local veterans and their organizations were very gracious. . . . I feel strongly that the holiday honoring our veterans should be kept as originally intended."
The e-mail seemed to appease many critics. It also elicited e-mails from other staff members who applauded Himmel's decision.
At least one teacher said she would cancel her plan to take the day off.
"It's a shame that you had to have some grief over the makeup day," wrote Sue Roberts, a reading teacher at Forest Ridge Elementary whose husband, Don, a veteran, teaches at Crystal River High School.
Others remain upset, including some who think Himmel's response will unfairly portray teachers who cannot get out of their original plans to take the day off.
"So now if we take that day off as a personal day we are going to be looked down on," wrote Alice Harrell, a fourth grade teacher at Lecanto Primary School. Teachers, she said, have worked an additional 12 hours so far this year trying to adjust to the new school hours. "When is our time going to be made up?" she wrote.
The uproar has stoked fears that few teachers will show up to work Nov. 23. At Lecanto Primary, principal Cicely Thomas urged the staff to consider the consequences. By late Thursday, the school had numerous requests from teachers and others staffers who asked to take off that day.
"For those of you who did not give me one (a leave request for Nov. 23) by this time, I'm asking that unless it is crucial for you to be gone, to please plan to be here on that Wednesday."
She warned that the school had limited substitute teachers that day.
"If very many more teachers are out we will have a lot of trouble finding substitutes to be with our students," she said.
Like several others, Woznicki, who had not received Himmel's response, questioned the district's logic.
"Economically, your decision doesn't appear to be a sound one either, considering the number of substitutes that will be needed to cover on this day. Good luck. Happy Thanksgiving!"
The exchanges even triggered School Board Chairwoman Pat Deutschman to weigh in. She had not seen Himmel's lengthy e-mail when she wrote an e-mail that the district needed to reconsider how it drafts the school year calendar.
"It's time to change the way the calendar is made up," Deutschman said. "We need to have more flexibility."
She held out some hope that teachers and Himmel would reach a compromise. "Perhaps we can persuade Sam to make the makeup day a half day at least," she said.
But in her response, Himmel asked employees to adjust their schedules. She expects them to be at school the day before Thanksgiving.
Eddy Ramirez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-7305.