Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’ve taught in a poor, rural, school district for the past twenty years. I
was hired to teach shop, mechanics, etc. In the course of time I have
subbed as everything from a teacher of math and biology to history. In
addition, each year I spend hundreds of uncompensated hours and
dollars advising and helping out with the yearbook. The only thing I
have asked that is “coloring outside the lines” has been to attend,
twice a year, with unpaid leave, a school held by my spiritual teacher.
Now the school administrators have said they are cutting my job to
half-time, and that they will not renew even that contract if I plan to
attend school again. I thought of calling in sick but it’s dishonest and I
would be 1,000 miles away if they call my bluff. (BTW my 98-yr- old
mother is on route so I visit her too.) I am 62, and need health
insurance, or I would consider retiring. It seems to me that some
better planning would help both them and me. Once I looked at all the
regulations I could use, we are two days apart, twice a year. What
pitch can I make to keep my life as I want it.


Dear Teach:

Here’s the letter I’d write. Dear School Board: I want to keep teaching.
I’ve been with the district since 19xx. In addition to teaching shop,
math, science, and history, and filling in as needed I have helped
produce the yearbook, an activity to which I’ve donated hundreds of
unpaid hours and dollars each year. I’ve done all this without
complaint, shifting my class schedule and availability as needed to
serve the district. When you told me that my job would be reduced to
50% I also accepted the change. The only thing I have asked is the
right to schedule unpaid vacation to accommodate a religious school
commitment that occurs twice a year. In the past I have combined
that with a trip to my 98-yr old mother. If necessary I can limit the
commitment to four working days on my new work schedule.



My suggestion is to negotiate as hard as you can for the part-time
contract to continue, so that your family’s medical benefits last at least
until ObamaCare kicks in. If you choose to leave after that, at least
you’ll have access to health care. Focus on fall term. If it goes well, try
to renegotiate the vacation issue again for spring, when they will be
even less likely to disrupt staffing and the yearbook. My bet is that you
can make this last at least six months, maybe a year, given how close
to the beginning of term we are. You might also consult a labor lawyer
to see if there’s any protection for a religious issue.