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School board votes to non-renew contract during public hearing

The Stuttgart School Board voted to non-renew Barbara Green’s contract during a special hearing held at Green’s request Monday night. (L-R) Board members Bryan Hancock and Tim Vose, attorney Jay Baquette, board President Napoleon Davis, Jr., and board members Todd Barnes and Candace Prine.
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The Stuttgart School Board held a special-called meeting last night which turned out to be a public hearing regarding the non-renewal of the contract of Barbara “Bobbie” Green, the district’s business manager and treasurer, at the recommendation of Superintendent Dr. Rick Gales. The hearing was held at Green’s request.

President of the board Napoleon Davis, Jr., and members Tim Vose, Bryan Hancock, Todd Barnes, Candace Prine, and Jennifer Payton were present. Board member Victor Johnson was absent from the hearing.

Green appeared before the board on her own behalf and without representation. The district’s attorney Jay Bequette with Bequette, Billingsley & Kees Law Firm acted as the hearing officer and presided over the meeting.

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When offered the option of an open or closed session, Green indicated that she wanted the meeting to be open.

Gales was given the opportunity to speak first and directed the board to page five of the provided packets, which was a letter of non-renewal that Gales said was given to Green on April 13.

According to Gales, he met with Green twice following the letter, on April 15 and April 22.  During the first meeting, Gales said that Green offered two scenarios for consideration: a change in contract title to reflect a reduced work schedule while keeping her pay rate the same or that she would provide a letter of resignation with an effective date at the end of the 2022/2023 school year.

Gales said that after consideration, he decided that the issue with the first offered scenario was that the district follows a salary schedule for positions and that the same salary could not be offered with a change in the job title. He said the problem with the scenario that delays the end of Green’s contract until the end of the 2022/2023 school year is that a full-time employee would still be needed to do the work that is in the contract in the meantime. Gales said he conveyed these opinions to Green during their second meeting.

Sharon Miller Mayville, the district’s comptroller and executive administrator, presented the remaining items in the board members’ packets, which included Green’s current 248-day contract as business manager and treasurer for the district and a job description written by Green years ago at the request of board members with Mayville stating that some of the duties are no longer being performed.

Mayville said that Green’s current primary roles include payroll, teacher retirement, insurance, inventory, and “those kinds of things.”

Included in the packet was a note detailing a meeting in which Mayville and Gales agreed to a change in hours on a trial basis for Green which would allow her essentially two half-days off per week to accommodate medical care. Green’s attendance record was also included, showing that Green missed 95 days in the current fiscal year, leaving just over 50 percent of workdays productive.

Mayville presented additional pieces of evidence that the district had made what it felt were reasonable accommodations for Green’s medical conditions over the last two fiscal years.

Security concerns regarding payroll and other financial information were raised by Mayville, who said that a limited number of clearances are able to be given through the district’s software and that reassigning Green to a part-time position would require the hiring of another person or persons, increasing the number of people with access needed to sensitive information and who potentially could not receive the needed clearance because of the software limitations.

Mayville finished her time speaking on the district’s behalf by stating the need for a full-time employee in Green’s position so that the essential components of the job are performed in a timely manner.

There were only a couple of questions from board members, one of which regarded the reduction in responsibilities from Green’s job description as provided in the packets.  Mayville answered that some of the duties have been reduced as a result of Green’s medical absences and that others have been reduced because of the learning of new technology that is involved.

Green was allowed to speak next and began by addressing Mayville’s comments about technology, saying that she would be the first to admit that “technology belongs to young people,” and continued, saying, “I’m 77-years-old but I do know how to do my job.”

According to Green, it was not until Mayville came to work in the administration office that technology became an issue, and until a couple of years ago, she was involved in preparing the district’s budget.  She said that for the first few years that the two worked together, she was allowed to review the budget but that, in her view, Mayville gradually took over entirely and she was no longer allowed to participate in that part of her job.

Green said that Mayville has taken over some of her other duties including reconciling exception reports from the Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN), saying that she was suddenly blocked from receiving the reports which were instead going to Mayville, eliminating some of Green’s responsibility and increasing Mayville’s workload.

Other duties Green said that Mayville began doing without her included meeting with new employees and providing them employment and insurance information.

Green said that Gales made Mayville her supervisor, saying that she had never had a supervisor before, having always worked directly for the superintendent, and admitted that she struggled with it.

Green gave her side of a conversation that occurred between her and Mayville during which she asked Mayville not to speak to her unless school business was involved, saying it followed a meeting between Green, Gales, and Mayville, and said that Mayville was a “total control person.”  Green also said that she was surprised by the evidence being presented at the hearing and that there were other issues not being covered.

Green concluded her presentation by reading a letter she had written prior to the meeting, disclosing that she has end-stage renal failure and requires dialysis three times per week. Green said that she felt she was capable of performing her existing job duties within the modified work schedule that was instituted on a trial basis following her diagnosis.

She said Gales read a letter to her in their April 13 meeting that stated he would be making the recommendation to the board that her contract not be renewed for the 2023 fiscal year. The reasons stated in the letter were excessive absences and that the district’s treasurer’s position was a 248-day calendar and she had missed 84.5 days up to that point.  The letter further stated that her absences had created an “undue hardship” on the district.

According to Green, she asked Gales what she failed to do or should have done differently and he replied that he did not know the specifics. She said he followed that comment by saying that he was aware there were times an employee had a question and she responded that she had never seen an issue or question that could not wait until the next day for a response.

Green detailed 84.5 absences for the board, telling them that 69 of them were sick days and that the rest were FMLA days, COVID days, bereavement leave, and vacation days.

She said that in her second meeting with Gales in April, she asked for alternate solutions to a non-renewal of her contract and explained that her reason for asking for an additional contract year was for time to help her heal from her husband’s death. She said that the reason she asked for the same pay for a reduction in hours was that she had worked many years to get to where she was and she felt she was capable of doing her work in the time allotted by a part-time schedule.

The remainder of Green’s letter contained notes about events that occurred during her employment and counterpoints to some of the statements made earlier in the hearing by Mayville.  She closed by asking the board to give consideration to what they would do if they were in her place, saying they are instructed to do so by the school board’s policy manual.

The board members did not have any questions following Green’s statement.

Mayville was given an opportunity to respond on the district’s behalf and reminded the board that two years of attendance were being considered, not just one year, and said that some of the changes in Green’s responsibilities were not Mayville’s decisions.

Gales also responded, saying that Mayville was already in charge of office personnel when he came to the district and that after observing for a year, he didn’t think a change was needed.

Green had no comments when given an opportunity to respond to Mayville’s and Gale’s final remarks.

Bequette gave the board final instructions before they entered into an executive session, telling the board members that there were three options for them to consider. The first was to accept the recommendation that Green’s contract would be non-renewed at the end of the current school year, June 30, 2022. The second choice was to reject the recommendation to non-renew. The third option was to modify the recommendation in some way with Bequette’s input on the wording of the modification.

Following the executive session, the board voted unanimously to accept Gales’ recommendation to non-renew Green’s contract.

The hearing can be viewed in its entirety in two parts on the Stuttgart Daily Leader’s Facebook page.

The school board will hold another special session on Monday, May 23 to review rehires.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Stuttgart School Board is on June 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the boardroom of the administration building.

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