Holy out of control, Batman!

Michigan teacher must cover cost of substitute while on military duty

In possibly the worst-written newspaper (remember those?) story EVER, the Detroit Free Press has managed to piss just about everybody off over the case of Kenowa Hills Public School District teacher Barry Bernhardt. Bernhardt is a middle-school teacher and Navy Reservist who is currently serving his annual two week active duty stint in Italy.

Go read the story if you want, but I don’t really recommend it. When you’re done you are either going to be scratching your head and trying to figure out what the Hades has happened, or you are going to go through the roof over the injustice of it all. The story has been picked up across the nation, and tons of mail, email, and calls have blasted the district and the school superintendent.

The Free Press story gives the impression that not only does Bernhardt have to pay for a substitute teacher while he’s off serving his country, but that he will also have to pay several days worth of military pay to the school district when all is said and done.

Which is all true.

They just don’t make it clear that Bernhardt IS STILL BEING PAID HIS TEACHER’S SALARY while on active duty.

How DARE they?!? Why would the district do such a dastardly thing?

Well, it’s so Bernhardt can make more money.

Yes, folks, the school district doesn’t have a Reserve/Guard policy, so they made one up on the spot. They decided to continue paying him while he’s off on active duty, but he will have to cover for the district’s expenses. In the end he comes out ahead. He knew this and signed off on the deal before he left.

The standard practice at most places is for an employee to be given UNPAID leave when activated, and the employee keeps his military pay. That’s how it is where I work. Sometimes the employer will make up the difference if the military pay is less than the employee’s regular pay. But they aren’t required to.

In case you’re unaware, most military positions are even more underpaid than most teaching positions.

Bernhardt comes out ahead. A number of Free Republic threads (this one among them) have people up in arms about the mistreatment of one of our Reservists. The rage is misdirected.

The Free Press story even calls Bernhardt a National Guardsman, not a Naval Reservist. Besides that, I think all the facts are actually in the story. You just can’t make heads or tails out of them.

Folks, I’m from Michigan, but WEST Michigan. I just want to make that clear.

Here’s an MLive story from the Grand Rapids Press that is a little more straightforward.

It seems that all the misdirected outrage has the school district considering a standard policy that is in line with other places. Which means that Bernhardt will make about $573 less next time he’s activated.

Too bad that the Detroit Free Press didn’t print a better story. And too bad that so many well-meaning but over-zealous folks made a big stink before getting the facts straight.

Thanks to the reader who tipped me off about this story. If only MO had been alerted sooner, maybe all of this ugliness could have been avoided.


  1. Thanks for clearing that up. It was confusing. It is nice to see the district tried to help the guy out. By the by, Western Michigan is Ontanogan where I come from. 🙂

  2. I know Barry and I know what he’s had to deal with as far as the district is concerned. Barry would be the first to admit that the school district went beyond the letter of the law to help him financially. He’s even posted a reply on the internet stating as much. However, he’s pretty upset about how Jim Gillette has twisted this to make it look like he’s making money or double-dipping as the term goes. If Barry makes anything beyond his normal teacher pay it will be a miracle. That’s despite working a second job while he’s using his vacation. The numbers posted by Gillette are blantantly inaccurate. Barry’s bi-weekly paycheck is $2505 not $3484 like Gillette posted in the GR Press. So why the disparity in numbers? Simple, Gillette wants to be made out to look like a good guy for making Barry pay for a substitute. It’s an attempt to make public opinion sway his direction when, in fact, making Barry pay for his substitute (for non-vacation days), is a slap in the face to reservists. He doesn’t make people on Jury duty pay for their subs!! This administrator is crooked to say the least. If you have to lie to the public to make it seem like you’re being fair, then you’re hiding something. Is this the kind of person we want in charge of educating our children?? I think we need to do some housecleaning in Kenowa Hills and start by taking out the trash – Jim Gillette.

  3. This is Barry, I’m home now and wondering what to do about all this SNAFU going on. There are a few people out there that think I have double dipped. I took vacation and weekends to make the extra money the super is pushing out on the news. Everyone should agree that the money you make from a second job that you are working should be yours and doesn’t constitute double dipping. On the days that the school is compensating me, so I can single dip my teacher salary instead of my E5 pay, I come up short the cost of my substitute teacher. This is what caused the big uproar in the first place at the board meeting and is still the truth. The district didn’t have to do anything at all but did and for that I am grateful. They also didn’t have to make me pay for my own sub, but they did. The super distorting my pay and didn’t cover my back while I was out of country, thats disappointing. Are opinions about me changing in a negative way because of the information posted about me and released to the press. Only time will tell. Big D has it right except the part about not knowing that I would have to pay for my sub and I did per a phone call from the super. He claims that we talked and agreed upon a way for me to make the most possible money and that is not true. He talked and I listened. When the one way conversation was all over and I was giving the district my mil pay and my sub pay for the 6 days the district was helping out I said yes sir, thank you sir like I am supposed. Something is more than nothing. (most of my teacher salary instead of a leave of absence)But the original argument brought forward at the board meeting and in the press still remains the same. I DID PAY FOR MY SUBSTITUTE FOR THE 6 DAYS THE DISTRICT COMPENSATED ME. Thats not me yelling just trying to get everyone back on track. Yes I will make more than an E5 but now I will not make my normal teacher salary on for the 6 days the district is helping out. BTW – The compensation days and personal days are days off, like vacation. Barry Bernhardt

  4. Wow, there were a lot of writing errors in the last post. Its 10pm in Michigan and ……4am in Sicily. I better hit the hay. I’m beat!! Barry