View Full Version : Michigan teacher must cover cost of substitute while on military duty

03-03-04, 05:42 PM
Michigan teacher must cover cost of substitute while on military duty


GRAND RAPIDS -- A Michigan school district told a teacher activated for military duty that he must cover the cost of a substitute during part of his absence and give the district some of his military pay.

At a school board meeting this week, angry teachers, students and district residents criticized the decision by administrators at Kenowa Hills Public Schools.

"Is this how you treat people that defend your country?" Tom Lovett, a teacher's spouse and district resident, asked board members.

Barry Bernhardt, a middle school science teacher and a National Guard reservist for at least a decade, started serving two weeks of active duty in Italy on Monday, the day of the school board meeting.

During the 10 days Bernhardt will be gone from the classroom, he will use two personal days and two compensation days during his time off.

For the remaining six days, Bernhardt must pay the district $74 per day for the substitute teacher filling in for him and turn over the $78 in salary that he will receive each day from the National Guard, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

"The district missed a golden opportunity to reflect on the patriotic duty of all Americans to, in our own way, celebrate the accomplishments of the service not only of Barry, but of all the men and women who stand for our country," said Ron La Fave, a Kenowa Hills teacher.

Superintendent Jim Gillette said the district was following the law when it crafted its agreement with Bernhardt. A similar agreement was drawn up on one other occasion, years earlier, when Bernhardt was assigned to Bosnia during a tour of duty.

In most previous years, Bernhardt has fulfilled his military assignments while on vacation, Gillette said.

"It's inaccurate to say we didn't do anything for him. We did provide significant assistance," the superintendent said, adding that the district continues to provide Bernhardt with all his other benefits during his absence.

In the end, the teacher will receive $573 more than he would have after the two-week military leave, Gillette said. Bernhardt will give the district only six days' worth of his military pay, and he also will receive a military housing allowance.

When compared to employees of private companies, the district is doing what it should to protect Bernhardt's financial stability, Gillette said.

"It's a fact that he's not losing money, that he's making money. Whatever way you look at it, he's still making money," he said.

In neighboring Grand Rapids Public Schools, teachers called to duty receive two weeks of unpaid leave but are not required to pay for a substitute teacher.

As a result of Bernhardt's situation, Kenowa Hills school board members now are likely to create a specific policy covering employee military leave.

"In the future, he's not going to get out that well," Gillette said.




Tom D
03-03-04, 07:48 PM
Ashamed that I was born and raised there.

03-03-04, 08:12 PM
CAS3 or anyone else; doesn't Federal Law cover this? Soldier/Sailor Act? ...darn, gotta do some research...

03-03-04, 08:23 PM
"In the future, he's not going to get out that well,"
Superintendent Jim Gillette said.

The above burn my rear end...what xxxxing well are we talking here?
This PC bullxhit has to end somewhere...
The man goes to do the duty he has been assigned and these PC Alpha, Serria, Serria, Hotel, Oscar, Lima, Echo's want him to "Pay" for a substitute!!!
They should send the bill to the DOD and see how far they get!!!
Especially the number uno, Alpha, Serria, Serria, Hotel, Oscar, Lima, Echo...
Hotter than hades here down under the State of Michigan...

Semper Fidelis

03-03-04, 08:29 PM
What a great civics lesson for the students in this community. Serve your country and forget about paying the ultimate sacrifice, just remember to pay for the person standing in while your away serving America! Here's an idea. Let's look at his Guard pay and what he now has to pay the substitute. I bet he can qualify for social assistance! So, he should just file for low-income benefits and let the state send him a check or money. Hell, most people get it and never serve the community or the country. This guy is one up on them!


03-03-04, 08:32 PM
I would imagine this is all covered in his contract. Hell, if he's a teacher the Secretary of Education has already called him a terrorist anyway.

03-03-04, 09:45 PM
Originally posted by ivalis
I would imagine this is all covered in his contract. Hell, if he's a teacher the Secretary of Education has already called him a terrorist anyway.

I thing the point here is that the administrator must think that he is somehow getting more money then he thinks he should.

How about they trade places so that the administrator can get another look!

I'd bet his song would change!

03-03-04, 10:32 PM
One of the reasons i've lost most of my respect for teachers is that they don't know much.

Didn't this fool read the contract? I don't get in a card game w/out knowing the rules for cripesakes. I also think this is PC crappola, this time I'm on the side of the school district.

You make your bed, ya lie in it. This is a personal resposibility issue, the teacher should take some.

03-04-04, 03:30 AM
If a reservest was a McDonalds employee and got activated. Would he have to pay the replacement hamburger flipper money. Thats some crazy sh*t..

Super Dave
03-04-04, 08:22 AM
That's just WRONG!!! I need to have a little talk with these idiots!

03-04-04, 10:21 AM
This sucks.

For those interested, below is the Official Website for the Kenowa Hills Public School system. They are running a story concerning this article in the Detroiit Free Press. They try to cover their behinds by quoting Col. Eugene Raab, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Ombudsman, to validate their position.

According to the school district, both parties agreed to the conditions which allow this "payment" to happen. Legally, they are correct. Morally, that is another matter. I suggest checking out their website and drawing your own conclusion.

Official Website:

Semper Fi!

03-04-04, 10:43 AM
This smells of nothing but contempt for the U.S. military from these school "administrators." This is a growing problem within our school systems now that the majority of teachers and administrators are the ex-hippie, baby boomer war protesters of the 60's and 70's - the "silver spoons and paper plates" liberal elite.

03-04-04, 06:26 PM

From the Editor:

In Michigan, the Ripoff That Wasn’t

By Ed Offley

I have great news to report: Barry Bernhardt did not get ripped off.

The story appeared on the AP wire yesterday, got picked up by the Drudge Report, and was the buzz of military and veterans’ communities all across the nation today: A public school teacher called up for active-duty training with the Navy had been forced by his employer to pay out of his own pocket for a substitute teacher to replace him while he was serving overseas.

The gist of the coverage was this Michigan public school administration telling Bernhardt, “Going off to defend the country? Here’s the bill – pay up.”

When I read the AP article I could feel my blood pressure spike. I’m sure every veteran, reservist, Guardsman and active-duty military person who saw the story had the same response: Who are those idiots in that @#$#% school district and what do they think they are doing?”

Deep breath: Here’s what really happened.

Bernhardt is a middle school teacher in the Kenowa Hills School District near Grand Rapids, Mich. He is also a member of the Navy Reserve, and like other part-time military people, must juggle his civilian and family responsibilities with the demands of the service.

So when Bernhardt recently prepared to travel to Italy for 15 days of annual training (which would force him to miss two full weeks of school), he contacted his employer to arrange for a substitute teacher for two weeks and to ensure that the paperwork was in order for his leave from work.

Under the 1994 “Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act” (USERRA), Bernhardt’s employer must save his job position for him upon completion of his military duty. The law focuses on re-employment rights of Guardsmen and reservists summoned to active duty. But the law, experts say, does not require a civilian employer to pay the employee a nickel of his or her civilian salary while away on active service.

Here’s what Kenowa Hills School Superintendent Jim Gillette and his staff actually did: They approved for Bernhardt to use up two days of leave and two comp days during his absence (which means he gets paid his normal salary of $342 per day for those four days away). For the other six days of work, instead of receiving nothing from the school district, he will receive his regular pay ($342) less the cost of the substitute teacher ($75) and his Navy pay ($100), for a net increase of $167 per day. Of course, he continues to receive all other benefits from his civilian employer under USERRA provisions.

“Legally they don’t have to do that,” says Gary Aten, a retired National Guard lieutenant colonel who serves as Michigan’s executive director of the organization, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. “Legally it would be an unpaid leave of absence.”

Aten added, “This is commendable for them to do that.”

What happened to create this overnight internet feeding frenzy was a combination of public misunderstanding and a local news reporter’s inadvertent dousing of the fire with gasoline. When the Kenowa Hills School District held its regular meeting on Monday, a handful of local teachers and residents – misinformed over the nature of the agreement Bernhardt and the district had reached – accused Gillette and his staff of ripping off a patriotic and dedicated teacher.

Then the local reporter made a bad situation appear worse when she erroneously wrote that the district was actually taking money from Bernhardt’s military pay as well.

Faced with an escalating uproar, Superintendent Gillette posted a lengthy statement on the district’s website regarding the teacher, which said in part:

“The salary and benefit arrangement worked out by Kenowa Hills goes above and beyond what the [USERRA] law requires and what other area school districts and private employers are doing. The law only requires employers to provide unpaid military leave. Since salaries in the public schools usually exceed military stipends, military personnel called to duty often lose funds as a result of their service. Other area schools either place personnel on unpaid military leave or make up the difference between their military pay and their school salary.”

“We did this,” Gillette explained, “because we wanted to support those serving our country through providing both a flexible and positive option.”

I have a confession: Like every other journalist, I love a good train wreck. I also take a secret pleasure when someone in an office of serious responsibility steps on a rake and meets the handle on his forehead with a loud klong.

In the case of Kenowa Hills School District and Barry Bernhardt, we got neither. Instead, we have a supportive and enlightened employer going above and beyond the requirements of the law to help a teacher and part-time trooper who himself is serving us all.

That’s not as much fun as a 10-car derailment. It is a much better story.

Ed Offley is Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at dweditor@yahoo.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com. © 2004 Ed Offley.




03-04-04, 09:54 PM
Abort DefCon 5, call the bombers back... Wow, I can't believe a member of the illustrious press corps could f.u.b.a.r. a story like that. 10 to 1 she's now in line for an Editors position...

03-04-04, 11:21 PM
I'm with you on that Gunny, but I think we should up the odds, I have a feeling it's a sure thing.