A third of the teachers at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale were “feeling sick” Friday, distressed over the rising cost of their health care benefits and how they are valued by the archdiocese.
The Archdiocese of Miami reported that 44 of the school’s 132 teachers either called in sick or took a personal day.
A parent who contacted the South Florida Sun Sentinel said many students had to sit in the auditorium and were supervised by a skeleton team of substitutes and staff.
The rising health care costs were the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” said a teacher who contacted the Sun Sentinel.
The teacher, who declined to give his name out of fear of retaliation, said most teachers haven’t received a raise in 10 years. He said teacher stipends that provided a little extra income have been eliminated and teachers no longer get a discount on tuition if they send their children to a Catholic school.
He said the teachers are not going to strike, but wanted to be heard.
“Individually we took a sick day. Collectively we have a message to send,” he said.
The archdiocese described the health care cost increase as “modest” and said it follows only two other increases — of 3 percent and 2 percent — in the past five years.
“While in the next fiscal year the employees will see a modest increase in the costs of their health care benefits, no changes in any other benefits will be made,” the archdiocese said in a written statement.
Because of the St. Thomas sick-out, the archdiocese said officials will go back to schools next week to give a new presentation on the health care benefits, clarify the previous information and answer questions.
The archdiocese said there were no similar teacher shortages at its other schools Friday.