Fatima affirms leave policy prohibiting extra days off around vacation

By Neal A. Johnson, UD Editor
Posted 12/7/22

WESTPHALIA   — Fatima teachers will not be allowed to take additional time off around scheduled holidays. While this has been a policy for a while, some teachers have asked about it …

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Fatima affirms leave policy prohibiting extra days off around vacation


WESTPHALIA  — Fatima teachers will not be allowed to take additional time off around scheduled holidays. While this has been a policy for a while, some teachers have asked about it recently.

“This is really two different policies, leave during PD day versus extending a long weekend,” said Board President Doug Luebbering at the November meeting. “We need to discuss it as two different things.”

With Thanksgiving recently celebrated, Woody provided an example. Since the school was closed all week for the holiday, a teacher requesting a personal day on the Friday leading into the week off would be denied. 

“If I let four teachers off and we can’t find a sub for the fifth teacher, who’s going to be mad? I’m pretty sure you guys know where I stand on this,” said Superintendent Chuck Woody, noting that a shortage of substitute teachers creates a challenge when staff members are not in the building, confirming that the responsibility for finding subs falls to the principals.

However, Woody said if a teacher decides to take the day off, there are no repercussions other than a letter of insubordination placed in their file.

“That’s pretty hard to swallow for some of them because there are things they feel are out of their control,” said High School Principal Sharyl Kelsch, who asked if a teacher requesting a day to take their child to college would be an acceptable exception.

“Within the last year or two, I’ve started to take that into consideration,” Woody replied. “These letters are for our purposes. I’ve never been asked about that kind of thing when people call me for a reference.”

He added that whatever direction the board elects to take will be enforced by the administration. “Do we let whoever gets there first have the day off?” Woody asked. “I’m leery of that.”

Board VP Keith Huhn agreed. “If we allow that, it’s a free-for-all,” he said. “I think the burden should be on teachers to find their own subs. If they had to find their own subs, I would feel differently. I agree with Chuck; the letter in the file is for our purposes. I understand that there are real situations, but how good will the story be the next time?”

Kelsch said in some cases, teachers won’t ask for the day off; instead, they call in sick.

“They know if they call in sick, they won’t get the letter,” she added, noting there is an increase in such incidents around the holidays. “I used to work at a hospital, and their policy was if you call in sick the day before or after a holiday, you don’t get paid for the holiday. That’s how serious it was because people did it all the time without it.”

Kelsch acknowledged that some cases were serious, but that policy was effective.

Not all teachers want the day before a holiday off. “There’s an opposite extreme opinion with some teachers,” Woody said. “They feel that’s the last day they should take off because they want to make sure everything is ready before vacation.”

Woody suggested that adding one freebie might be a good decision if the board amends the policy.

A letter in the file is, in its own way, a freebie, considering it has no impact beyond employment at Fatima, Huhn noted.

Board members agreed to leave the policy in place as-is but acknowledged that each situation is different.

In other business, the board approved the Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP) as presented.

Woody said the document is a tool to evaluate the district’s goals and whether they are being met, with an opportunity to update the plan as needed.

Goals include improving academic achievement, graduation rate, attendance rate, college and career readiness, and that 85% of students ending third and sixth grade will be at or above grade level in reading.

Fatima’s CSIP also prioritized Climate, Culture, Communication, Facilities and Operations, Staff Recruitment and Retention, and Supports for Success.

The CSIP reads, “This plan will be carefully monitored through various metrics to ensure the success of the District across all priority areas. Metrics will include student achievement data, attendance, community involvement, stakeholder perceptual surveys, facility maintenance, financial review, staff retention, ongoing professional development, and more. The commitment of the Fatima school and community to the work outlined in this plan will ensure success for the District mission and a fulfilled vision where all students are leaders who bring pride to the community.”

After approval by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Stakeholder Climate and Culture surveys developed to align with CSIP will be sent out this month; surveys will be sent to all stakeholders and baseline data collected, information shared with all stakeholders in January, and implementation, review, and revision of the CSIP, with outcomes shared with all stakeholders, will be an ongoing process.

• Board members hired Larry Hale (part-time custodian), Cassidy Roling (assistant track coach), Stephanie Hoffman (Head Cheer), and Samantha Freeman (Assistant Track), and accepted a resignation from Jamie Pearson (head cheer coach), and the retirement of Cheryl Jaegers (part-time custodian).

• The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 7.