Sunday, June 13, 2010

Majoring in the Minors... CPNs.

Once upon a time, a decade or so ago, I had a boss who was fond of saying, "Let's not major in the minors." It's another way of saying, Let's make sure we are focused on what is of major importance, not on what is of minor importance.

I think a case in point is the issue of Compelling Personal Necessity days. The current contract allows teachers to take two days off a year for reasons of Compelling Personal Necessity, aka CPN.

Here's how the current contract reads: (Page 53)

"1. 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. A leave of absence for personal necessity may be granted to a unit member, for not more than twenty (20) days in each school year. Additional leave may be granted at the discretion of the Superintendent. Such leaves shall be deducted from a unit member's accumulate 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 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). Other personal necessity leave under this policy shall be granted in the following situations:"

Then the categories for Other Personal Necessity are listed: Death of a Member of the Family, Illness in the Immediate Family, Accident of an Emergency nature, Danger to Home or Property of Unit Member, Paternity Leave, Funeral, Examination for Selective Service, Court Appearance, Graduation Ceremony of an Immediate Family Member, and Weddings of Immediate Family Members.

Here is what the Superintendent wants to change the contract to:

Something along the line: Compelling Personal Necessity cannot happen on a day proceeding or following a holiday or vacation. (Really?) 

Who would want to open that can of worms? Who would want to be so invasive into a worker's use of Sick Leave, when the current contract includes the language in order to give some Personal leeway? Who?

Someone who wants to major in the minors. Someone who wants to ignore all the personal sacrifice given by workers without pay for the good of the students and District. Someone who wants to be penny wise and pound foolish. Someone who discounts the value of the good will of their workforce. That's how I see it. And it's sad, but indicative of a management stance that needs to be altered.

Is this really an issue the District wants to raise a flag and die on? (School Board... do you need to advise your Superintendent and your bargaining team?)

This is of MAJOR importance? This is worth aggravating your self-sacrificing teaching staff over? (Really?)

It's insulting to me that the District would feel compelled to make this a contractual matter. I think it falls in the category of majoring in the minors. Teachers recently gave many extra hours, weekends, and money to help Lowell Joint win Distinguished School Awards. None of the teachers submitted a bill to the District. Teachers who feel valued often behave in self-sacrificing ways.

When I worked in business, there was something called, Compensatory Time Off. It was a matter of "You scratch my back: I'll scratch yours." It was a matter of helping each other get done what needed to get done and then repaying an unofficial debt. It was a way of saying, "I value you and your sacrifice."

It helped build morale. It built camaraderie. It demonstrated appreciation. It also gave my boss some unofficial flexibility: some employee good will. My boss couldn't always reward us financially, but he did reward us with the next best thing: time off. Some, if not most of this activity was "off-the-books." The company practiced a bit of "Don't ask. Don't tell." Why?

Because we were majoring in the majors, not the minors. Majors like getting the job done, respecting each other, valuing each other, and rewarding each other in meaningful ways, even if it meant bending some rules.

Why? Because in the arena of human cooperation: that's just good leadership.

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