YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Teachers at The Sullivans elementary school here have filed a grievance against the school’s principal over a change in their lunch break.

The Nov. 16 grievance, containing the signatures of 47 members of the Federal Education Association, requests The Sullivans principal, Dave Russell, to rescind his direction that teachers be “required to supervise students during the teacher’s contractually negotiated duty-free lunch” or begin paying teachers “their hourly rate for time spent providing such supervision.”

The document obtained by Stars and Stripes says that according to the Master Labor Agreement, teachers are entitled to a duty-free lunch of at least 30 minutes, and that past practice at The Sullivans had been to give teachers a one-hour duty-free lunch.

School officials and District Superintendent Paula Miller referred questions to Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific spokesman Charles Steitz, who in an e-mailed response wrote that the situation is being reviewed by leadership.

“Whenever a grievance is filed, it is processed according to the agreed procedures and is carefully reviewed by DoDDS,” Steitz said. “DoDDS-Pacific maintains a positive and collaborative relationship with FEA.”

Some teachers say that the matter of this un-negotiated change in working conditions has been festering for years.

“I feel that the practice is creating animosity between the administration and the staff by forcing the lunch duty on us during a time when we could be doing something more productive,” said a teacher who asked not to be named due to an e-mail from the school’s FEA representative directing them not to speak to outside media.

The FEA representative, Trevor Stanton, could not be reached for comment.

The teacher said the current arrangement was put in place two years ago when the school’s parent-teacher organization stopped providing funds to hire aides to supervise students during lunch.

A second teacher, who also asked not to be named because of the e-mail, said there are three reasons for the current action: teachers need to eat, lunch provides an opportunity for “teachers to remain organized and confer with one another” and the current arrangement was originally agreed to on a temporary basis. “If any practice is done long enough, it becomes part of established practice,” the teacher said.

According to a DODDS-FEA agreement, “The Principal shall issue a written decision within seven (7) calendar days from the date the written grievance was received.”

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