Cloquet School Board meets over teacher grievanceA special meeting of the Cloquet School Board was held Monday to determine whether a teacher’s absences due to a family death should be recorded as sick days, personal days or “deduct” days. It was the first time anyone could remember such a problem warranting a special school board session.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
A special meeting of the Cloquet School Board was held Monday to determine whether a teacher’s absences due to a family death should be recorded as sick days, personal days or “deduct” days. It was the first time anyone could remember such a problem warranting a special school board session.
“First of all, this is highly unusual for this [type of grievance] to come to this level,” said Evan Sandstedt, regional union representative for Education Minnesota. “A lot of these [situations] are worked out at a more informal step – so the fact that we’ve gotten here is a little disconcerting.”
Not strictly adhering to the grievance process and contract language that seemed open to interpretation were listed as the main reasons the two groups were at the table Monday.
“None of this is personal,” said Cloquet Schools Superintendent Ken Scarbrough. “Our talk might sound a little clinical but we’re talking about a death in the family and we’re cognizant of the tragic situation that took place here.”
The situation stemmed from the unexpected death of Washington Elementary School teacher Julie Schultz’s mother in January. In all, Schultz was absent from school for eight days, which in itself was not the problem, according to all involved.
“I told her to do what she needed to do and that her [class] room was covered,” said Washington Principal Randy Thudin.
After discussion at the meeting, the board voted unanimously in favor of Schultz and to change the personal day and “deduct” day (a day in which some of a teacher’s pay is deducted) to sick days as the union requested.
The unanimous vote in her favor came because Thudin admittedly missed a deadline in the grievance process and because the union presented two previous instances where sick days were used in similar cases.
“If we honored it in the past and the contract is the same – that to me is kind of hard to [go against],” said board member Rose Scheuer.
Both sides agreed the language regarding time away from the job should be re-worked during the next contract negotiations.
“We think there is some language [referring to this] – but it’s very muddy,” said Betty Langenbrunner, Cloquet’s Education Minnesota representative. “We want to clean up the language.”