By ALICIA LEONARD
The Walton County School Board(WCSB) met in a regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 4 at 5 p.m. following two workshops on school business.
Items that drew the most discussion during the meeting included property purchases and a compensation request by a former instructor. After opening the meeting, the board moved unanimously to approve opening agenda items including approval of the agenda and the adoption of minutes from the prior meeting. When Board chair Faye Leddon asked for public comments, none were forthcoming, and the board moved on to the consent potion of the agenda, passing it unanimously.
Under the action agenda portion of the meeting, the board passed 5-0,
memorandums between the Workforce Board of Okaloosa and Walton counties and the Walton Career Development Center, as well as an agreement between the board and Fort Walton Beach Medical Center for student nurses. The board then moved to approve unanimously a Juvenile Justice Education Program CTE Course Enrollment Project Application.
Personnel recommendations were approved unanimously. One of those
approvals was to place Jeff Infinger as the new principal of Emerald Coast Middle School(ECMS). Infinger has been the assistant principal at ECMS and prior to that was the assistant principal at Butler Elementary school. Superintendent Carlene Anderson said Infinger had been ranked the first choice by a “target selection committee” for the position. The committee was made up of a professor from the University of West Florida in their education department, a former superintendent, and a coordinator for middle schools from another district.
Under other compensation, a request for payment of accrued sick leave by
former instructor/administrator Tamara Hightower came before the board. Board members Mark Davis and Sharon Roberts had multiple questions for Resource Director Sonya Alford. Anderson told the board, “This is a former employee that has made this request to the board. She did make this same request to Mrs. Alford and Mrs. Alford explained to her the policy of this board and why she was not able to pay her the amount she was asking.”
Anderson said that to recommend the request by Hightower would
violate the board’s policy on back pay and leave pay. One of the two items that came out of the following discussion was that Hightower had received two lump sum payments, but one check stub she had received, according to Alford, had not had the correct amount of leave time taken from it before being printed. The second item was teachers in Walton, according to board policy, can only cash out at 80 percent of one year’s cycle. According to the board’s policy, if a teacher works the 2012-2013 year, they can take a payout at the end of that school year from unused sick leave, but cannot ask to be paid from prior years that went unused except in cases of death or retirement. In cases of death or retirement, they receive 100 percent of unused time in the form of a payment. The time also transfers to other communities and districts and Walton adds those hours as well when teachers transfer into the district. So, employees may show additional time from years past that is transferred, but are not able to cash out on those prior years if they leave.
Anderson recommended for the board to not pay the amount requested by
Hightower. Roberts said, “I just want to make sure we don’t owe her, and
we are actually in violation of our own policy.”
Alford said that Hightower did acknowledge she received a lump sum payment for her annual leave, and her supervisor had not been able to get Hightower to sign leave forms and those forms had not been deducted from the 255 sick leave hours shown on a June 27 pay stub.
Roberts remarked, “Well, either we have a huge error, or we owe her from
what her pay stub shows. It’s one or the other.” Alford showed the board a line item balance of the leave used by Hightower. Davis took issue with some leave being turned in before the check was cut, but other items in May not being deducted before the check was cut near the end of June. “If that’s a practice, we need to take a hard look at that,” said Davis.
Anderson responded, “We had two things going on here if I remember correctly. We had a problem getting the employee to sign the leave, after multiple attempts and it didn’t happen, so, it took us up to the last minute. We’re talking about the end of a fiscal year, not just a month. There were some unusual postings, and communications were difficult at that time. We were not able to process like Mrs. Roberts is talking about, bookkeeping wise. It was difficult to process when we weren’t getting the forms completed. But, the bottom line I’m drawing to when I made my recommendation to the board is if it was posted early, late, same day, she had X amount of hours that we can under your policy pay, and we paid those.”
WCSB Attorney Ben Holley spoke up and said, “What you are getting into
is she didn’t retire or die, so she’s not entitled to sick leave that was not accumulated during the last year she worked.”
Davis responded, “So if you are terminated, you are only entitled to 80
percent of your sick leave from that last year employed that you did not
use?” Alford responded, “Yes, sir.”
Board vice-chair Gail Smith concurred that when she was a principal, many employees would ask to receive their sick leave in the form of payment for the last year worked. Employees are still able to take sick leave and use it from prior years, but they cannot receive a cash payment for those.
After more discussion about rated and unrated leave, the board moved to
decline Hightower’s request 4-1, with Roberts being the nay vote….
By ALICIA LEONARD