School board disagrees on personal days

By Kevin Wilson: Quay County Sun

A decision on personal leave days created sharp differences in opinion during Tuesday’s meeting of the Tucumcari Public Schools board.

Many of the items on Tuesday’s agenda were tabled until the next meeting due to the unexpected absence of Superintendent William Reents. Reents missed the meeting after suffering a broken ankle, with surgery set for today, according to Assistant Superintendent Aaron McKinney.

McKinney sat in for Reents, but said there were many agenda items where he didn’t have adequate information to inform the school board. Board members also tabled a decision on the extension of Reents’ contract as superintendent.

One action the board did take regarded the number of personal leave days allowed under school policy. The former policy gave teachers four days of personal leave, in addition to 10 sick days throughout the school year.

Board member A.J. Williams said the policy should be acceptable under the board’s standards. Williams reasoned that a teacher, just like anybody who works at any job, needs personal days. By reducing the number of allowed personal days, which require four days advance notice and principal approval, Williams said teachers would only be encouraged to fake sickness when a personal day was needed beyond the allotment.

Board member Albert Mitchell said he understood the need for personal days in any line of work, but felt the board gave teachers more opportunity for personal days by going to a four-day school week.

Mitchell said most jobs require five days per week, if not six or seven, and teachers should try to take care of personal matters on Friday as much as possible.

“I think it’s ridiculous to go to a four-day school week,” Mitchell said, “and leave the (personal day) number at the same place.”

Board President Rex Kirksey said he understood both sides of the argument, but noted the old policy allows a high rate of absence for a teacher. Assuming a teacher uses all 10 sick days and all four personal days under the old policy, Kirksey said, that teacher has missed nearly 10 percent of 153 days of instruction and the students get a lower quality of education.

The board voted 4-1 to reduce the number of personal days to two. Williams voted against the measure and Kirksey struggled with his vote before siding with the majority.

In other business:

• In board member comments at the beginning of the meeting, Marty Garcia said the school should have a surplus of funds at the end of the year and he suggested they use part of the surplus to explore a conceptual design of a new high school.

Board member Doug Powers agreed with Garcia’s suggestion.

“I think it’s long overdue,” Powers said. “We need to look at this … even if we have to consider a phase project.”

Later in the meeting, Kirksey asked Powers if he would agree to make the item a discussion point in a later meeting. Powers said that option was fine.