Oct. 29 2008 12:00 AM

A Lansing School District report says that in September most tea

There’s a bug going around the Lansing School District that causes the afflicted to call in sick on Fridays. Symptoms include sudden doctor appointments, itchy staff development workshops and other flu-like symptoms.

A Lansing School District report released at the Oct. 13 school board personnel committee meeting shows Friday to be the most missed day of the week for teachers.

School officials say that it’s not a thirst for a three-day weekend that’s keeping teachers out of class but real professional and personal reasons.

There were 306.6 total Friday absences in September, of the district’s 1,250.6 total absences for the month in currently filled positions.

Friday was the first or second most missed day for 11 of 19 categories of reasons to miss a day listed in the report, including family illness, doctor appointments and bereavement. Staff
development is another reason teachers miss days, said schools
spokesman Steve Serkaian. Development is part of the district’s
professional development process, he said, and teacher attendance is
required by contract.

“It would be difficult to analyze,
quantifiably, why Friday absences are higher than other days without
subsequent months to compare,” Serkaian said. “And so we just have to
take the data at face value — that there’s an increase of absences due
to personal illness and doctor’s appointments that occur on Fridays.”

and other explanations chip away at the nearly 40-absence spike on
Fridays over Tuesday, the other high-absence day. Jerry Swartz,
president of the Lansing Schools Education Association,
which is the teachers’ union, said many missed Fridays are taken up by
events that require teachers to be out of the classroom. Conferences
and other required programs are often scheduled for Fridays, and many
teachers try to arrange doctor appointments and personal matters for
the last day of the week. Swartz also said that most students are
absent on Friday and teachers prefer to plan their absences for this
day so they can be present when the greatest percentage of students
are. Swartz gave other reasons that could contribute to the Friday
absence spike for teachers. He said school employees who work overtime,
like guidance counselors, can be compensated for this time with days
off, which are often taken on Friday.

Swartz said he does not
consider Lansing’s Friday absences for teachers out of the ordinary,
and that he has hope for greater understanding of trends like this
through new computer software, used for the first time to generate this
month’s report.

He also said it is not uncommon for an ill
teacher to take a sick day on Friday after trying to last the week.
“Don’t negate if there are people struggling with health issues.
Teachers often push themselves to the end of the week,” he said. “You
find this in the human services; you’ll find that they are
overwhelmingly so devoted to these kids.”