UEA convention, fall break held on separate weekends this year

2009-09-30T00:10:00Z UEA convention, fall break held on separate weekends this yearMichael Rigert - Daily Herald Daily Herald
September 30, 2009 12:10 am  • 

Despite the Utah Education Association's bumping the date of its annual teachers convention to Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 two years ago, officials in the Alpine, Nebo, and Provo school districts chose not to realign their two-day fall recess.

The so-called UEA weekend typically coincides with the districts' mid-October fall recess to allow teachers to attend without having to use personal days. In the Alpine, Nebo and Provo districts this year, the fall recess will be Oct. 15-16, instead of the weekend of UEA events.

Mike Kelley, UEA spokesman, said because of a venue scheduling conflict this year, the convention is moving from the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City to the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, and will be held two weeks earlier than normal.

He said many school districts in the state reset their fall recesses to take place on the same days as this weekend's convention.

Lana Hiskey, a spokeswoman for the Nebo School District, said the district's teacher representatives never voiced any concerns during scheduling committee meetings held about nine months ago about the two events taking place on separate weekends.

"What we were finding is that not many of our teachers were taking that opportunity" to attend the annual teachers convention, Hiskey said.

For several years now, she said the Nebo School District has tried to keep the autumn school break on the same weekend each October because the UEA convention dates kept bouncing around, and district patrons wanted standardized dates. This way parents know each year when their children will be out of school for fall break, and district employees of all three school districts who have children attending school in a neighboring district can plan accordingly.

"We have 28,000 students and their families we have to be worried about, ..." Hiskey said. "This seemed like a win-win."

Jim Griffin, a social studies teacher at Salem Hills High School, is president of the Nebo Education Association. He hasn't heard any backlash from teachers who might be upset because the convention and fall break will be on separate days.

Some are disappointed because they can't attend the convention this year without using personal days, he said. Teachers in the Nebo district are not required to reimburse the school for the cost of hiring a substitute teacher when they take a personal day, the district said.

And though he enjoys attending the convention and has for many years, a large percentage of the UEA convention is geared toward elementary school educators and new teachers, Griffin said. A 30-year veteran of teaching high school, there may be only a single event geared toward a faculty member of his experience level.

"I haven't received one complaint, and I get lots of e-mails from teachers, ..." he said. "I'm sure there are people ticked off, but there are always people ticked off about the calendar."

Representatives from the Alpine and Provo school districts did not return calls for comment.

Kelley said it is up to each district's school board to determine its calendar, but he can't help but think that districts that opted not to hold their autumn recess during the convention may end up short-changing their students. Either substitute teachers will be in the classrooms of teachers who want to attend on Thursday and Friday, or those teachers won't get the training that may help them in the classroom.

"Either way, it's the students that lose out," he said.

For the next three years the UEA convention schedule at the South Town Exposition Center will return to its traditional mid-October time frame, Kelley said.

Utah Education Association is celebrating its 100th anniversary at this year's convention with speakers including Lily Eskelsen, the vice president of the National Education Association and the former president of UEA and a teacher speaking on Thursday. On Friday, Harry Wong, best-selling author of "The First Days of School," and one of the most highly sought-after speakers on education, will address the convention, according to UEA.

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