Superior school board rejects policy changesEmployees of the Superior school district showed up en masse June 3 for the Superior School Board’s committee of the whole meeting.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Employees of the Superior school district showed up en masse June 3 for the Superior School Board’s committee of the whole meeting.
The high turnout came as the board considered new language for staff policies governing the outside activities of teachers and administrators.
Current district policy prevents staff members from using school resources and time for personal profit. It also prohibits political campaigning on school property during the work day and bars teachers from accepting fees for tutoring students enrolled in their classes.
The new language proposed at the June 3 meeting addressed employee conduct away from school property.
Staff members objected strenuously to policy change, which stated that employees “should avoid conduct and associations outside the school which, if known, could have an adverse or harmful effect upon the school community.” A second item also prohibited “expressions that would disrupt harmony” among colleagues or undermine the maintenance of discipline.
The changes were voted down by a unanimous voice vote, but not before a number of employees came forward to voice their displeasure.
Josie Hoem, a counselor at Superior Middle School, was confused and concerned by the wording of the new policy.
“This language makes me very nervous because it is very vague and it is very subjective,” she said.
Hoem wanted to know who would determine the criteria for acceptable conduct and associations.
She also questioned what kind of activities could be considered harmful or disruptive to school harmony. Could employees, for example, face discipline for supporting a political party, she asked.
Depending upon the interpretation, Hoem said, the new policy could be used to intrude upon her personal liberties.
“That’s how I interpret this — I’m not being allowed my voice,” she said.
Kelly Ritter-Spohn, a social studies teacher at the middle school, said she was appalled by the proposed changes.
“This is bizarre to say the least,” Ritter-Spohn said, referencing the language about permissible conduct and associations.
Like Hoem, she wanted to know who would decide what is an acceptable association.
Ritter-Spohn also asked how the policy would encourage harmony when employees are looking over their shoulders to see “who’s taking names.”
Board member Pat Dorin said he understood employees’ concerns, and the board asked for an explanation of the proposed change.
According to superintendent Janna Stevens, the new language mirrors the policy currently in place for support staff employees. She did not know the origin of the language but said the new policies were being introduced to make all three employee handbooks uniform in their treatment of the issue.
“There was no intention of malice,” Stevens said.
Robert Morehouse said he could not support the policy change and suggested the board review the existing language in the support staff policy.
“Maybe we should also be looking at striking this from the support staff (policy),” Morehouse said.
The board also rejected a policy change that would have enabled teachers to receive payment for tutoring students enrolled in their classes, as long as that tutoring did not occur during the normal work day. Current policy allows teachers to receive a fee for tutoring students who are not enrolled their classes if the tutoring takes place outside of the school day.