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Sick leave policy changes hot topic for School Board

The Pulaski County School Board’s sick leave policy for Pulaski County Public School system employees was the hot topic during Thursday night’s school board meeting.
Ultimately, the board voted 4-1 to approve the following:
•current employees will be paid for sick days accumulated as of June 30, 2009 at a rate of 30 percent of per diem pay, or $30 per day, whichever is greater
•beyond July 1, 2009, the paying rate for sick days for school system employees, regardless of whether they are already current employees or new hires, will be $30 per day
Originally, PCPS human resources director Joe Makolandra had proposed that a five year cap be placed on the sick leave payout rates. This meant that employees who retire between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014 would still receive the rate of 30 percent of per diem pay or $30 per day, whichever is greater.
However, for those who retired after June 30, 2014, the payout for all of their unused sick days would be $30 per day.
It was this five year cap that had both school system employees and school board members concerned.
Shannon Turner, an employee of PCPS for 27 years, 25 of which have been as a classroom teacher, said "over the years, many school employees have guarded the use of their sick days."
She added, "I have avoided taking days so that my students have the benefit of having their regular teacher in the classroom. Most of my colleagues do the same. In doing so, I also knew that even though I might not have always felt my best, there was an additional promised reward when I retired."
Turner also commented that for many of her colleagues who would not be within the five year "window," they might feel compelled to retire this year, so "as not to risk losing what they have earned."
She said, "if this happens, you would not only lose many effective experienced teachers, but would also have to pay out more money in this one year that you would have, had this change not been proposed."
Ultimately, Turner asked the board to "grandfather" in all employees at the end of June 2009 with the days they have accumulated.
"I feel that ethically you owe it to your employees to stand behind your word and not take away something that has been earned," she said.
Board member Jeff Bain said that he did not have a problem with proposal in regards to changing the payout rate for unused sick days to $30 per day after June 30. As for the five-year cap, he said "that part, I cannot support," because of the contract they have made with school system employees. He requested that the five year cap be removed from the policy.
He added that he realizes that in the future, this will most likely end up being a financial burden to the school board, but "when I give my word, I’ve got to stick to it."
Makolandra said his main concern was about keeping track of these obligations, along with controlling the liability of the school board in future years.
From a bookkeeping standpoint, he said, "my concern is whether these obligations are going to be met further down the road."
In his proposal to change the sick leave policy, Makolandra also noted that in the last two years, the school board has paid $429,643 in payment of sick leave payout, $159,569 in fiscal year 2007-08 and $270, 074 in the current fiscal year.
The proposal states that "if all employees who are eligible for retirement retired this year, the school board would have a $1,019,217 payment for sick days."
In the end, Bain and fellow board members Pam Chitwood, Dr. Rodell Cruise and Dr. John Wenrich voted to approve the proposal with the amendments that removed the five-year cap.
Board Chairman Paul Phillips cast the sole dissenting vote, and said he was "very concerned that we are creating a bookkeeping nightmare" and that "I don’t think we’ve accomplished what we need to do."

He added that he believes this is an issue they will have to revisit in the future.

Sick leave policy changes hot topic for School Board

The Pulaski County School Board’s sick leave policy for Pulaski County Public School system employees was the hot topic during Thursday night’s school board meeting.
Ultimately, the board voted 4-1 to approve the following:
•current employees will be paid for sick days accumulated as of June 30, 2009 at a rate of 30 percent of per diem pay, or $30 per day, whichever is greater
•beyond July 1, 2009, the paying rate for sick days for school system employees, regardless of whether they are already current employees or new hires, will be $30 per day
Originally, PCPS human resources director Joe Makolandra had proposed that a five year cap be placed on the sick leave payout rates. This meant that employees who retire between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014 would still receive the rate of 30 percent of per diem pay or $30 per day, whichever is greater.
However, for those who retired after June 30, 2014, the payout for all of their unused sick days would be $30 per day.
It was this five year cap that had both school system employees and school board members concerned.
Shannon Turner, an employee of PCPS for 27 years, 25 of which have been as a classroom teacher, said "over the years, many school employees have guarded the use of their sick days."
She added, "I have avoided taking days so that my students have the benefit of having their regular teacher in the classroom. Most of my colleagues do the same. In doing so, I also knew that even though I might not have always felt my best, there was an additional promised reward when I retired."
Turner also commented that for many of her colleagues who would not be within the five year "window," they might feel compelled to retire this year, so "as not to risk losing what they have earned."
She said, "if this happens, you would not only lose many effective experienced teachers, but would also have to pay out more money in this one year that you would have, had this change not been proposed."
Ultimately, Turner asked the board to "grandfather" in all employees at the end of June 2009 with the days they have accumulated.
"I feel that ethically you owe it to your employees to stand behind your word and not take away something that has been earned," she said.
Board member Jeff Bain said that he did not have a problem with proposal in regards to changing the payout rate for unused sick days to $30 per day after June 30. As for the five-year cap, he said "that part, I cannot support," because of the contract they have made with school system employees. He requested that the five year cap be removed from the policy.
He added that he realizes that in the future, this will most likely end up being a financial burden to the school board, but "when I give my word, I’ve got to stick to it."
Makolandra said his main concern was about keeping track of these obligations, along with controlling the liability of the school board in future years.
From a bookkeeping standpoint, he said, "my concern is whether these obligations are going to be met further down the road."
In his proposal to change the sick leave policy, Makolandra also noted that in the last two years, the school board has paid $429,643 in payment of sick leave payout, $159,569 in fiscal year 2007-08 and $270, 074 in the current fiscal year.
The proposal states that "if all employees who are eligible for retirement retired this year, the school board would have a $1,019,217 payment for sick days."
In the end, Bain and fellow board members Pam Chitwood, Dr. Rodell Cruise and Dr. John Wenrich voted to approve the proposal with the amendments that removed the five-year cap.
Board Chairman Paul Phillips cast the sole dissenting vote, and said he was "very concerned that we are creating a bookkeeping nightmare" and that "I don’t think we’ve accomplished what we need to do."

He added that he believes this is an issue they will have to revisit in the future.