Archive for Thursday, March 8, 2007

Baby boom hitting De Soto school district

March 8, 2007

Growth in De Soto USD 232 has had a surprising side effect. With younger teachers filling positions, the district is experiencing a baby boom, double from just last year.

District associate director of human resources Michele Morse said 38 district employees have taken maternity leave in the 2006-07 school year, up from 19 last year. Morse said that is a normal expectation for a growing district.

"We attract a lot of highly-qualified, but new teachers," Morse said. "Sometimes we hire them out of school, then maybe two years later they have a name change and two years later they request maternity leave."

De Soto High School English teacher Erin Hayes will be taking maternity leave starting April 13. Like most of the teachers who are expecting, Hayes is young and this is her first year at the high school. After leaving in April, Hayes won't be back until the next school year.

"The timing was a happy coincidence," Hayes said. "It works out better to have that closure for the year."

When an employee asks for pregnancy leave, staff must hire a long-term substitute. These substitutes must be licensed and certified like full-time teachers, including a state background check. District communications director Alvie Cater said substitutes were chosen based on class needs.

"If they have a sub who has been in the building a lot and knows some students, we might look harder at that person," Cater said. "Usually it is veteran teachers who aren't looking for a full-time job."

In the case of Hayes' first pregnancy, she took leave from Lexington Trails and lined up a substitute she knew.

"The woman who was my sub worked at the school a lot, so she knew all the kids," Hayes said. "Now she works at Lexington Trails."

While teachers have input on who the long-term substitute will be, the final hiring process goes through the school's principal. De Soto High School Principal Dave Morford said they also look to retired or student teachers. Hayes has a student teacher taking over for her until the end of the year.

"It really worked out well to have the intern I trust and know will do a good job," Hayes said. "It takes away a lot of stress."

Morford said the increase has been pretty remarkable districtwide, although his school has not experienced the boom as much as others.

"We went from having one pregnant teacher last year to two this year," Morford said. "So for me, it did double."

Morse said this year the schools with the most expectant mothers were at Monticello Trails and Mill Valley. She said a teacher, on average, will take eight weeks off, using sick days first and then unpaid leave from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires up to 12 weeks per year be available. Morse said more teachers are taking advantage of the program.

"It depends on their financial situation," Morse said. "If they can afford to take off 12 weeks, then they do."

The issue was one Morse said would not be going away as long as the district continued to grow as it had over the last decade. She said it was hardest to fill several leave requests from one building. Other times, the district gets lucky.

"Some teachers try to time their maternity leave so that most of it falls in the summer," Morse said.

After her April 24 due date, Hayes will be back only at the end of the year to clean out her classroom and attend graduation.

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