As I noted in an earlier post, I believe that the District has proposed adding language into the current contract that would disallow the use of Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN) before or after a contractual holiday.
You might think I'm exaggerating when I talk of Majoring in the Minors, but I'm not. A good example of this is the recent case of Mrs. Herman, a third grade teacher at El Portal. Mrs. Herman had scheduled herself to compete in the Paris Marathon during Spring Break. Her doctor suggested that she should allow several days to acclimate, and as a result Mrs. Herman used her two contractual CPN days to arrive early enough to acclimate prior to competing. So what's the problem?
The Superintendent decided that this was an opportunity to invoke disciplinary action! So she did.
A letter was written admonishing the teacher, and the letter was placed in the teacher's personnel file.
But Mrs. Herman is not easily intimidated, bullied, or mistreated. She filed a grievance. (Not allowing evil to triumph sometimes requires that we learn what are rights are, and how to stand up for them. Go Mrs. Herman!)
Mrs. Herman also responded to the Superintendent's letter with one of her own, which was also placed in the personnel file.
In the end, the Superintendent agreed "to remove the formal discipline notice and Ms. Herman's accompanying response from Ms. Herman's personnel file effectively this date, May 24, 2010."
This all transpired just before the District supplied their final contractual offer before declaring impasse. In that new "offer" -- new language was added trying to codify the Superintendent's stamp of disapproval regarding the use of CPNs. Majoring in the Minors... at the expense of employee good will.
At the bottom of this post, I'll supply the text from all three pieces of correspondence. Mrs. Herman was willing to share them with us in hopes that this too will help us "connect the dots" and bring into focus some of the problems haunting Lowell Joint... behind closed doors.
Before the letters, how about a bit of irony...
"Tyranny is defined as that which is legal for the government but illegal for the citizenry." -- Thomas Jefferson
On the two days in question, I believe the Superintendent was on vacation, so she could spend some time with her husband, whose Spring Break did not line up with Lowell Joint's.
(Per her contract, she has vacation days that can be used at her discretion: no questions asked.)
"When people fear the government, you have tyranny. When the government fears the people, you have liberty" - Thomas Jefferson
* * * * * *
In reverse chronological order:
"Decision of Principal, Department Head or Next Level Supervisor:
On May 24, 2010, the parties met to consider Teresa Herman's appeal and request to have the formal discipline notice and her accompanying response removed from her personnel file. In question was Ms. Herman's use of Compelling personal Necessity (CPN) on April 8 and 9, 2010, for travel to Paris, France, in order to compete in the Paris marathon. At issue was the interpretation of Article XXIII, Section F(1) of the Lowell Joint Education Association (LJEA) Contract regarding Personal Necessity that states: 'Personal Necessity Leave may be utilized by a unit member who has sufficient unused sick leave credit for circumstances which cannot be dealt with during off-duty hours and that are serious in nature, that is which cannot be expected to be disregarded and/or which necessitate immediate attention... Each unit member may use two (2) days of leave, under this provision, per year for personal reasons other than concerted activities. This day shall be deducted from the unit member's sick leave, and the reason for absence shall be Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN.)'
It is Ms. Herman's contention that she was not in violation of the above referenced Article. It is the District's contention that while CPN days may be used for personal reasons, given that the days are entitle as Personal Necessity days, the personal reasons for the use of CPN days must fall within the description of Personal Necessity days as included in Article XXIII stated above, and that vacation days do not comply with the description as stated in the LJEA Contract. There, Ms. Herman's use of CPN days for vacation time was a violation of Article XXIII.
During the conference on May 24, 2010, the Superintendent shared three areas that were of concern: (1) Ms. Herman's principal, as her direct supervisor, had approved the use of the two CPN days prior to April 8, 2010, knowing that Ms. Herman was planning to leave early for France. (2) While the District had not proposed deducting salary for the use of two work days, the Superintendent has determined that under the previous superintendents(s) Article XXIII, Section F(1) was not consistently interpreted and applied. (3) While Ms. Herman and the Superintendent have differing views as to the interpretation of the definition of a CPN day, it is clear that both LJEA and the District need to work together to further define the use of a CPN day and both parties need to be diligent in education the unit members and the administrative team regarding contract language.
Therefore, the Superintendent agrees to remove the formal discipline notice and Ms. Herman's accompanying response from Ms. Herman's personnel file effectively this date, May 24, 2010."
Reading between the lines (where I added bolding above), I see that not all previous Superintendent's agreed with Dr. Howell's interpretation, and that -- by golly -- we need to add language to the contract (Further Define), so that Dr. Howell's interpretation will prevail! And be taught! And be adhered to! (Grrrr....)
"May 6, 2010
Dr. Patricia Howell
Lowell Joint School District
11019 Valley Home Avenue
Whittier, CA 90603
Re: Use of Compelling Personal Leave
This letter is written to inform you that my use of Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN) leave on April 8 and 9, 2010, was not in violation of the current collective bargaining agreement and does not constitute cause for disciplinary action. There, your recent letter I received on April 29, has no place in my personnel file.
Your contention that my use of Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN) leave on April 8 and 9, 2010, was in violation of the current collective bargaining agreement represents your misunderstanding of the collective bargaining agreement.
The District's contractual agreement with the Lowell Joint Education Association (LJEA), Article XXIII, Section F(1), states the following concerting Persona Necessity (PN) and Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN) days: 'Persona Necessity Leave may be utilized by a unit member who has sufficient unused sick leave credit for circumstances which cannot be dealt with during off-duty hours and that are serious in nature, that is which cannot be expected to be disregarded and/or which necessitate immediate attention. A leave of absence for personal necessity may be granted to a unit member, for no more that twenty (20) days in each school year. Additional leave may be grated at the discretion of the Superintendent. Such leaves shall be deducted from a unit member's accumulated sick leave benefits for those situations necessitating the unit member's absence from duty. Each unit member may use two (2) days of leave, under this provision, per year for personal reasons other that concerted activities. These days shall be deducted from the unit member's sick leave, and the reason for the absence shall be Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN.)'
The language is very clear. Your contention fails to recognize a unit member's right to 'use two (2) days of leave per year for personal reasons other than concerted activities.' You further fail to recognize that 'the reason for the absence shall be Compelling Personal Necessity (CPN).'
Your assertion, per our conversat6ion on April 29, in the presence of Kim Likert, my school site administrator, and Tom Hollister, my representative from the California Teachers' Association, that CPN days were to be used for private matters such as psychological counseling and the like, implies that the collective bargaining agreement allows you to determine the scope of what is 'compelling, personal, or necessary' for any and all unit members. Clearly, such determinations are outside your purview. The CPN box checked serves as all that is required as a reason. Please note that while it is not necessary for me to obtain the approval of my site administrator to take CPN days, as you know, my principal was aware of my plans, and substantiated my course, and validated my right to utilize my CPN days.
Furthermore, your practice of asking site administrators why teachers are taking CPN days, as you admitted to in our conversation on April 29, is emblematic of how you endeavor to overstep the boundaries stated in the collective bargaining contract. Frankly, it smacks of bullying and intimidation and undermines the professional relationship otherwise enjoyed by the teachers and site administrators of Lowell Joint.
Allow me to explain how this practice of yours is playing out across the district. When one of my colleagues heard last week about how disciplinary action was the topic of my conversation with you last Thursday afternoon, she responded with, "'I was planning to take my CPN day to attend a church function next month. I guess I should call in sick instead." Dr. Howell, is that the kind of work environment you wish to create? The fall-out of your management style is an unhealthy work environment. Teachers in Lowell Joint are feeling intimidated into reporting they are sick, instead of exercising their right to use CPN days, as afforded by the collective bargaining agreement. Be aware of that.
Your letter states: 'Your conduct is also in violation of Board Policy 4219.21 - Professional Standards. The policy states: ""The Board of Trustees expects district employees to maintain the highest ethical standards, follow district policies and regulations, and abide by state and federal laws. Employee conduct should enhance the integrity of the district and advance the goals of the educational programs. Each employee should make a commitment to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill his/her responsibilities and should focus on his/her contribution to the learning and achievement of district students. The Board encourages district employees to accept as guiding principles the professional standards and codes of ethics adopted by professional associations to which the may belong."
Your proclamation is puzzling to me. To my mind, training for and completing a marathon exemplifies goal setting and self-discipline, two of the character traits addressed in our District Character Education Program. I proudly teach these character traits and endeavor to reflect them in my professional and personal life. I recognize and take very seriously my responsibility to lead by example, and to that end, I was proud to share my experience of running the Paris Marathon with my students. I dare say, they shared my pride and were genuinely happy for my accomplishment. One student shared as we discussed my fitness goals and progress toward them, 'You've gotta go, Mrs. Herman. You've trained hard for it and it is your dreams.'
Your letter further states: "your duties as a professional education and your responsibilities to the students in your classroom are of utmost importance. As a teacher you are expected to serve as a role model for students in the district. Knowing that El Portal Elementary School and the District have been stressing the importance of student attendance every day, it is disappointing that you would knowingly miss two days of school for your own personal vacation time. This misconduct constitutes ground for discipline under Education Code Section 44939, and justification for withholding compensation under Education Code Section 45055."
Your hurtful accusation and question of my integrity begs the questions:
How do you then justify the District's proposal for the elimination of instructional days for the 2010-2011 school year, when such a proposal knowingly denies all students of Lowell Joint School District of education days?
How do you account for the fact that a Lowell Joint School District Board member took her child out of school early in recent years to head for a European vacation, and was congratulated and encouraged by District Administration for such an educational endeavor?
Why do you assume that my Compelling Personal Necessity was for my "own personal vacation time" when in fact an arrival time two nights prior to the Paris Marathon was necessary for adequate rest and adequate time to adjust to the vast time difference? Such preparation was vital to a healthful and successful completion of the marathon. French law mandates that all marathon participants provide a medical release form signed by a medical doctor in order to take part. I received this approval from my physician, with the understanding that I would have adequate time in Paris prior to the race to rest and adjust to the time difference. It should be noted here that these facts are again, outside your purview and only addressed here to respond to your false assumption.
Have you reviewed my Lowell Joint School District Evaluations of Teaching Effectiveness on file as you attacked my Profession Standards? They speak for themselves.
How do your practices of question site administrators about teachers' use of CPN days and intimidating teachers into being fearful of exercising their right to CPN days "enhance the integrity of the District?" You cited Board Policy 4219.21 - Professional Standards. Ironically, I believe you need to question your own behavior, as District Policy clearly refers to all District employees, not just teachers.
As you attack my right to take my CPN days, have you, at all, considered the fact that I worked a full day, each Saturday and Sunday, at my school site, for three consecutive weeks to prepare for our visit by the committee evaluation our school for the California Distinguished School Award? My colleagues and I wanted to make sure we were presenting our school in the most favorable light possible as we applied for that prestigious award. The extra time that was required was given freely by each of us. As professionals, we recognized the need to go the extra mile in order to earn this honor that bodes so well for Lowell Joint. We are so pleased and proud to be recognized as a California Distinguished School.
Your accusations are hurtful and unfounded.
The education Code Section you cite reads: "Except as otherwise provided in this code no warrant shall be drawn in favor of any teacher, unless the officer whose duty is to draw the warrant is satisfied that the teacher has faithfully performed all the duties prescribed."
You believe, as discussed in your letter that "the use of a CPN day must fall within the description of a PN day" does not line up with the contractual agreement. Quite simply, Dr. Howell, if CPN days needed to fall within the description of PN days, the CPN provision would not exist. To that end, when I checked the box "Compelling Personal Necessity" on my leave report, my report was complete and in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement. The "Brief details" referring to items 'a' through 'h' under this policy refer to Personal Necessity. Compelling Personal Necessity is clearly delineated in both the collective bargaining agreement and the Lowell Joint School District Leave Report. Disciplinary action and/or a letter in my personnel file are inappropriate. I have and continue to perform all duties of my position in accordance with the LJEA contract, Board Policy, and the Education Code regulations, including properly utilizing CPN and PN days.
(The letter was cc'd to the principal, the LJEA co-presidents, Tom Holister - CTA rep, and all members of the school board. I hope they read it.)
A bit more irony? Dr. Howell not only holds a Clear Administrative Credential, but she holds a teaching credential: Authorized Subject?... wait for it... Physical Education (by examination), with a supplementary authorization in Introductory Mathematics. C'mon!
Holder of a PE authorization, disciplining a marathon runner? She can't validate the endeavor? Really?
My hands are tired so I'm not going to retype Dr. Howell's entire two-page letter. The majority of it is quoted in Mrs. Herman's letter. I'll just give you the final two paragraphs:
"You are directed to perform all duties of your position in accordance with the LJEA contract, Board Policy, and Education Code regulations, including properly utilizing CPN and PN days."
"Your failure to comply with these directives could result in disciplinary action. Moreover, the District does not intend to impinge upon your right to participate in activities protected by law; however, your conduct as described above is not protected by law and should not be repeated."
Nothin' better to do than sniff out such non-violations? Really?
Let's Major in the Majors! And remove the "clarifying" language re: CPNs from the current "offer"!
PS: Special thanks to Mrs. Herman for standing up for what is right, for allowing us to peak in behind closed doors, and for completing the Paris Marathon! Yowza.