Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

March 25, 2013

Panel keeps ethics policy as is

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — The policy committee of the Cumberland County Board of Education has recommended no changes to its code of ethics after the ethics committee requested it consider removing "publicly" from the policy.

"This is the [Tennessee School Boards Association] Code of Ethics. I don't think we have the authority to change this," said Charles Tollett, 1st District representative.

Tollett said the board could endorse an alternate version of the policy that governs the board in its relations with children, the community and teachers and personnel. Article III section 3 states, "I will not criticize employees publicly but will make such criticism to the director of schools for investigation and action if necessary."

Adoption of the TSBA Code of Ethics is a requirement for earning Board of Distinction honors, as well.

"We could disqualify ourselves from the Board of Distinction program," Tollett said.

Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative, said, "I think going above what they have would be fine. We're not watering it down. We're saying we're going to a higher standard."

Tollett also said removing publicly from the policy would limit board members' ability to discuss matters of concern with employees.

"I think we'd be taking away an opportunity for a board member to react to something an employ does in a private way that is useful to the employee," Tollett said.

Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle said the policy does state the board will refer complaints to the director.

Josh Stone, 4th District representative, suggested leaving the wording as is, with the committee agreeing.

"I don't want to keep the wording about TSBA if we're going to change what they've sent it," Stone said. "I'd like to just go ahead and leave it."

The committee recommended no changes to the attendance of non-resident students though did recommend the issue of a tuition fee for the coming year be placed on the March agenda for the board. The policy states the board will establish the tuition annually. Last year, the board set the tuition rate at $0, though state law does allow school systems to charge students who live in other counties and are attending school in Cumberland County.

The policy also decided to make no changes to the payroll procedures policy to require all employees be paid by direct deposit.

"In my personal opinion, I don't want to force that option," Janeway said.

VanWinkle said there was sometimes a problem issuing checks for employees when payday fell on a holiday or a snow day when schools were closed. For example, schools will be closed March 29 for Good Friday. The Cumberland County Courthouse is open and will issue paychecks on that day; however, they will not distribute checks to school system employees. Someone in the school system will have to work that day to hand out checks to school system employees. VanWinkle said direct deposit would also save the finance department money.

The committee also discussed including procedures in the policy manual. Administrative procedures can be changes as needed without board approval, but when procedures are included in the policy manual, it takes two successful readings by the board to make a change.

About half of the school system employees participate in direct deposit.

Janeway said, "We could change the procedure so that, if payday falls on a holiday or snow day, checks will be available the next business day."

A change to the procedure for granting tenure was approved. The change brings the policy in compliance with state law, which changed the law for tenure to require five years of teaching in a school system instead of three years. The committee recommended the documentation of a record of excellence in teaching include record of attendance for the last three years; that the director will provide notice of non-renewal to each teacher not granted tenure by June 15 of the year of eligibility; and that a teacher who attains tenure in the system and then resigns would serve a two-year probationary period upon reemployment by the school system.