Pinellas teachers union: Don't punish teachers by changing unused sick leave policy
Pinellas teachers union executive director Marshall Ogletree submitted the following letter to the editor in response to last week's story about payouts for unused sick leave:
Section 1012.61(2)(a) 4, Florida Statutes, establishes the right of a school district to provide terminal pay for unused sick leave and caps the amount of such compensation for district instructional staff and educational support employees. This particular statute has been practically unchanged in decades. In fact, the intent of the law was to provide an incentive for teachers to stay in the profession and for them to not utilize their sick leave, except when absolutely necessary. Why? Because when teachers are out sick, a substitute is required in that classroom. There is a cost for the substitute teacher and a loss, in many cases, of learning in the classroom during the teacher’s absence. In Pinellas, this benefit is part of a teacher’s compensation package and may only be earned upon retirement.
If you really analyze the newspaper article, it is apparent that the real issue is the cost of this benefit for administrative personnel.
Of the 19 listed in the “$100,000 Club”, 17 were administrators. The 2 teachers in the “club” would have accrued 30 years worth of unused sick leave to be eligible for this “club”. I believe they earned every penny of that benefit.
Administrators do not require substitutes so they can go to a medical appointment during their workday. A large percentage of administrators, who work 12 month contracts, earn additional terminal pay for unused vacation which adds thousands of dollars to their payout. There has been much rancor around the state over the past 20 years when a district superintendent or a top level administrator leaves with a large payout. The School Board does not have to include terminal pay in a superintendent’s contract and the School Board sets pay policies for administrators. School Boards have the power to address the level of terminal payout for administrators and should do so.
The average payout is just over $10,000 and that includes all the payouts for the administrative “club” members as well as the much smaller payouts for teachers and support staff. Do not punish those for whom the law was established.