The Red River Parish School Board heard at the meeting Monday night that there is a big problem with staff missing more days a year than they are entitled to. Moves are planned to curb habitual absenteeism.
Nicole Eason told the board, “Teachers and employees are abusing our policy. Each gets 10 days sick leave with other amounts depending upon their position. After extended leave some qualify for leave with pay, 65% to 100% of daily salary. And some then take leave without pay.”
Superintendent Alison Hughes said to the media present, “I want you to report that it is not just teachers we’re talking about. We have an absentee problem with staff and support personnel too.”
The board was presented with a chart showing that as of the end of February this school year personal sick leave was 60% of absences or 1023.5 days. Nineteen percent was annual leave, bereavement, extended sick leave, jury duty and personal leave for 324.5 days; 16% sick leave and family for 272.5 days; and 5% was personal leave for 94.6 days. Note that figures were not presented on what percent of the abusers were teachers and what percent are bus drivers, support staff and other personnel.
Finance Director David Jones summed it up, “The big problem is employees taking too many days off, that they don’t care if they take extra days off without pay.” For teachers there is the additional cost of $67,000 for hiring a substitute teacher. And Jones said, “All together we spend about $100,000 a year on substitutes for teachers, bus drivers, and support personnel who are absent.” This is above the cost of the salaries for those staffers who are not on the job.
Board Member Susan Taylor said there was more than the dollar cost. “When the teacher is not in the classroom it has a negative effect on the students. Students do better when their teacher is there every day,” said Taylor.
So what is planned to correct the situation? Superintendent Hughes told the board, “We’re getting our attorney in to set up procedures for following our attendance policy. We have a policy but over the years we have allowed small abuses to become the norm. Now employees are extending it and extra abusing it and missing many days.” Hughes added, “We’re not changing the system but looking to strictly enforce what is already in our policy. This won’t affect those doing the right thing already.”