Minor changes to two local policies should make qualifying for extended leave a little easier, should employees have cause to need it, Sulphur Springs ISD administrators told trustees when presenting the recommended changes for approval this week.
SSISD Assistant Superintendent Lisa Robinson noted Aug. 15, 2022, that DMA and DEC were the two local policies administrators had pulled out of the Texas Association of School Boards Policy Services Localized Policy Manual Update 119, which trustees approved at their regular Aug. 8 meeting, for further review before submitting them for approval.
SSISD Superintendent Michael Lamb noted DEC(Local) consists of two parts which and asked them to approve changes to two words.
“There’s two different parts in one policy that we think we can make some changes to that will relieve some pressure on our employees, if a COVID situation were to come back, if sub situations were come back. This is just our effort to hear from them and reach out and help,” Lamb said, noting he’d sent the trustees some data for the items being recommended.
Lamb said administrators frequently are told SSISD is the only school they know of that charges for a sub in a leave policy. A survey of 30 schools showed that to be true; none of those reviewed charge for a substitute.
“We would like to change that from saying yes to us charging for a sub to a no, which would put us in line with every other school we were able to look up,” Lamb said.
Trustees agreed to remove “the average daily rate of pay of a substitute for the employee’s position shall be deducted for each day of local leave taken, whether or not a substitute is employed” from DEC local.
The second recommended change to DEC (Local) had to do with extended leave. He said a survey of other school showed varied policies.
“The way our works is for up to 30 days you can, under special circumstances, you can get some leave, but you have to have been absent five times before that. We felt like it caused people if they were going to be three, they went ahead and stayed home two more just to qualify. So we’d like to change that from five to three days just to ease that up a little bit, make it a little more user friendly,” Lamb said.
Of the schools surveyed, some give 30 days, some 20, others 15, 10. A few schools have no limit at all. Half of the schools surveyed don’t offer it at all, but do have a sick bank or sick pool. SSISD has talked about the possibility of a sick pool but has not had one. Having a sick bank or pool would require a committee to decide what is and is not worthy, which would make it more difficult to keep things fair and more equal among employees.
“So, just to have some clarity, switching for 5 to 3 days, allows them to access 30 days extended leave?” SSISD Trustee Jason Dietze asked.
Lamb affirmed, this would allow the employee to become eligible for extended leave under extenuating circumstances two days sooner.
“It would have to be FMLA qualified then we do deduct sub rate for those 30 days, but they don’t have to have five first,” SSISD Business Manager Sherry McGraw clarified.
“But the school district tracks the FMLA; it’s 12 weeks annually?” Trustee John Prickette asked.
McGraw affirmed they would send a packet to the employee to get needed information for FMLA.
Robinson noted that the recommended update for DMA (Local) policy removed any reference to the existing exchange time policy.
“We realized that what’s now in here with the new recommended wording for DMA (Local) for our professional development policy needed to have some old wording still cleaned out of it that pertained to exchange time and practices that we no longer use because we’ve imbedded our professional development during the contract year for our teachers,” Robinson explained. “This policy now is very cleaned up; it’s very short. The way that it’s recommended for now according to what called for in Senate Bill 1267 is that once this is approved, we will annually present to you our professional development plan for the district. All of the details of our plan won’t exist in the policy, it will exist in the plan that accompanies that.”
Robinson said with board approval on Aug. 18, administrators will draft using “clearinghouse recommendations” a schedule of the professional development that are being done this year, which will be presented to the trustees at the next regular school board meeting.
Additional Policy Updates
The school trustees approved both policy changes a recommended, on Aug. 15, 2022. The trustees also approved on Aug. 8 as presented Policy Update 119, which included 51 legal policies and 8 legal policies, minus DEC and DMA local. Josh Williams, who was transitioning from Assistant Superintendent back to the high school to serve as campus principal, presented the policies for board review and gave a brief overview of notable changes in July.
Other Action Items
Trustees also at the special Aug. 15 board meeting opted to renew the district’s contract with TPS for property/casualty insurance for 2022-2023, even with a 25% increase in premium. McGraw noted the district has been with Offenhauser for 21 years, but has had different carriers. The current is TPS, and it was TAPS before that. She said it might be worth going out for bids next year.
She said that seemed high to her too, so she had TPS representatives stop by explain the big jump in cost. Essentially, she learned that the increase is due to some big claims over the last 5 years, which is what the rate is based on. This factors in the 2018-2019 hail damage claims to repair roofs, which is projected to be $2 million more as a recent survey of district facilities revealed one elementary campus that had damages. The amount is added to year of damage, not year it’s reported. The rate also factors in damages from the ice storm 2 years ago, which totaled about $643,000.
An increase in property values also helped drive the insurance premium up as the replacement value insurance would have to pay rose from about $159 million to about $172 million. That 8.3% increase in property values drove the rate up 18%, and the $2 million in additional claims drove it up even more.
If SSISD can keep claims low for three consecutive years, some of these claims will roll off, which in turn should drop the premium rate some,
She said one other option to consider for property/casualty insurance is TASB, the largest to offer the service. However, that also requires the district to also transfer their workers comp fund to them as well. TPS is the second largest group to offer the service.
SSISD school board at the Aug. 15 meeting also approved as recommended by administrators one resignation and three new hires.
Janelle Safford is the new director of instructional technology. Jada Goodson and Denise Luna were hired as special education aides; Goodson will work at Middle School and Luna at Sulphur Springs Elementary.
Christine Rogers’ resignation as a fourth grade special education teacher at SSES was also accepted by trustees at the special 4 p.m. board meeting on Aug. 15, 2022.