Germantown School District examines possible changes to employee handbook

Aug. 26, 2014

Germantown — Personal experience could help in shaping some changes to the paid time-off policy in the Germantown School District.

At a meeting Aug. 25, the board considered changes to its employee handbook, including alterations to how district staff takes time off when a loved one passes away; before or after holidays and in-service days; and around maternity and medical leave.

"I am passionate about this," said board member Lester Spies, in reference to the district's bereavement policy.

Spies himself encountered a personal situation in which his wife, who was seven months pregnant at the time, lost a family member, and the family traveled out of state to attend the funeral.

"Bereavement is different; it's not leave," he said.

At the policy committee, discussion centered around a policy change that allows all district staff, regardless of rank of employment, to take up to three days of time off after the loss of a loved one, including one day of bereavement leave and up to two days of sick or personal time. Currently, there is differentiation between administrators and teachers, limited-term and support staff.

Spies, who also serves as a pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Living Christ, is satisfied changes are being considered and hopes it is reviewed again next year.

"Even if would it would not be what I fully want or believe," he said, "I'm OK with it being a step in the right direction."

In addition to bereavement leave, there could be changes to how the district handles donation of time off from one employee to another in the case of a catastrophic illness, such as a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Changes would allow a district employee to donate only personal days, which refresh each year, to fellow employees, as opposed to sick days that accumulate year over year.

"What we ran into is there is a lot more sick leave," said Director of Human Resources Cynthia Coley. "We were having support staff contribute a weeks' worth of (time). While it's a very generous thing, you may have support staff contribute to a teacher and might be talking about a difference in daily rate."

How staff use unpaid time off could also be changing, as employees who use unpaid time will be required to exhaust all other paid time off before using an unpaid day off. Unpaid days off, most frequently used in cases of maternity or medical leave, would no longer be used to supplement an in-service day or holiday.

"We had some support staff who would take unpaid time to extend their holiday or vacation time," Coley explained. "What I'm seeing happen is people taking an unpaid day, but they still have personal days to take later; then we have to get the sub plus when they decide to take a personal day."

Each of these changes could be incorporated into the new version of the employee handbook, which will most likely be reviewed and ultimately approved as a whole at an undetermined later date.

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