WEA Believes its Teachers Get Cold Shoulder

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mdpettitt/ / CC BY 2.0As surrounding schools are delayed and closed, after it snows, teachers of the Westport School District have to worry about driving on snowy roads in order to get to school on time.

In fact, since more than 85 percent of all faculty members live outside of Westport, they are the most concerned about traveling long distances in the snow.

“Our primary concern is always the safety of the students and staff members,” Superintendent Elliott Landon said. “If there is no imminent threat that prevents people from working, I will not close school.”

The motives for his decision always revolve around what he believes is best for the community.

However, the Westport Education Association (WEA) strongly believes that some of the calls that have been made in the past, specifically on Dec. 9 and Jan. 8, disregarded precautions for teachers who must travel long distances.

“[WEA’s] point of view is that it does not matter if the Westport roads are clear, or if 1-95 is moving. The problem for teachers who must travel a considerable distance is that they face lots of traffic,” Ed Huydic, the WEA’s president, said. “Lots of stress is put on these teachers who have to battle the elements to get in on time. To have people fight their way through ice and snow to make an effort to get [to school] is dangerous.”

Huydic also stated that for those teachers who are unable to arrive at school on time, the administration must scramble for substitute teachers, creating much anxiety within the building.

Although Landon stated that prior to Jan. 8, the parking lots were treated for the possibility of snow by the Highway Department, WEA still strongly believes that the parking lots and walkways are rarely safe to walk on after it snows — it even presented cell-phone snapshots as proof during a meeting with Landon on Jan. 19.

English teacher Christina Richardson admits to falling a few years ago on the black ice in the parking lot.

As a resident of Wilton, Richardson said that she has absolutely faced difficulties while traveling to work.

“The plows do not race out to clean the streets in my town when the schools are closed because there is not a need,” she said. “Yet, I still have to make it to work.”

Like Richardson, Staples football coach Marce Petroccio agrees that the sidewalks and back entrances are not always cleaned.

While Petroccio must travel from Ridgefield, the roads are not always plowed up until Westport.

“It puts people in a precarious situation. Teachers that do not live in the town must be taken into consideration,” he said.

Landon believes that Westport prepares its roads for drivers.

In fact, Landon points out that the buses are equipped with drop-down chains that whip around the wheels and create studs to dig deep into the snow.

“Unfortunately, accidents happen all the time under the best conditions,” he said.

“Other towns may not have the same equipment,” Landon said.

According to Huydic, WEA’s goal is for Landon to reconsider how he goes about making the decision, because it is not just about Westport’s needs.

“It is always better to be on the safe side,” Landon said.