An issue that we have had to deal with recently has to do with personnel leave. We had three different teachers within days of each other who had exhausted all of their personal leave days and requested to take more personal days for upcoming events. Since sick days cannot be transferred to personal days, this would have put them in dock status. So, persuant to policy GCBD-1 of our county’s policy manual, which states, “After an employee has exhausted all accumulated sick leave, the per diem salary amount will deducted from teh employee’s monthly compensation,” We had to inform them that they would be docked pay for those days. Needless to say, this was not a popular decision and was lobbied and appealed both formally and behind the scenes.
This set of events brought two things to my mind that relate to our current courses. The first is the need for policy in general. Each person in this scenario had legitimate reasons for having exhausted their leave days and legitimate reasons for wanting more. In addition, two of the three are 25-plus-year members of the staff who have given significantly of their extra time to the school community over the years. As such, it would be easy to rationalize a reason for granting the leave with full pay.
However, while granting and exception may be a popular decision among the current group in need, it would not be in keeping with the ethical principle of Justice as Fairness in so much as others in the past may not have received the same break. In addition, the enforcement of the policy is, most likely, a Utilitarian one in that the maintenance of some standard of conduct and attendance is essential to the effective management of a school division. To grant three exceptions on this in a small community where word gets around quickly would amount to throwing the policy away completely. By having the policy in place, it made it easier for me to maintain and enforce the standard fairly and consistently, even with those who I know well and live with on a daily basis.
A second point that was brought to mind is the importance of the current climate in the implementation of policy. One of the first things that happened when I informed one of the employees they would be in dock status was that he began to recount to me others who had been granted exceptions in the past and ask if the others who were over their limit (everyone knows everyone’s business here) were treated the same.
This exmployees reaction exemplifies a key point about policy. While this policy has not changed since at least 2006 (and I suspect it was the same before that), I am sure that when the economic and, thus, the political climates were better the policy may have been implemented a little more liberally. This illustrates the idea presented in Chapters 3 and 4 of P0licy Studies for Educational Leaders: An Instroduction, third edition that policy is influenced by, among other things, economic and political considerations. So, while we may want to help out an employee and give them a break, in a political and economic climate where people are losing jobs and systems are cutting millions of dollars, it does not reflect well on the system to let people a) leave work more than the allowed time (unless for extenuating circumstances) and b) let them do it with pay.
Thinking in these terms and understanding the background of policy and how its implementation is both influenced and perceived helped me ratioanlize and solidify a difficult decision.