LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Jefferson County Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday asking Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis to withdraw his request for the names of teachers who requested sick leave during six "sick out" days that closed Kentucky's largest school district.
The resolution came a day after Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio requested five additional business days to compile and report the data to Lewis.
"The JCBE believes that the educational interests of Jefferson County students are best served by allowing teachers to focus on their profession, including advocacy in their profession’s best interests, without the fear of retribution," the board’s resolution says.
Lewis did not pull back his request for teachers' names, but he promised that no disciplinary action would occur "if there are no further work stoppages."
"We are requesting this information so that we can have assurance that districts have policies in place to protect school days and students instructional time," Lewis said in a statement.
"In the coming days I'll be reviewing the submissions from districts to determine if all have sound policies in place and to determine whether next steps are needed. The bottom line is kids need to be in school."
Below is a copy of the full resolution:
Diane Porter, chairwoman of the school board, said there's "a big concern" about submitting names of teachers who requested sick leave on days when JCPS was closed.
"We have to support the people that work with our students," she said.
Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said he'd heard from several members concerned that they could be punished, potentially even fired, based on Lewis's inquiry.
"I think teachers are concerned about that," he said.
McKim said JCTA, which urged against the "sick outs" at JCPS, appreciated the board's efforts to protect teachers' rights to protest.
"We really need to lower the anxiety that contributes to the lack of trust, I think, that's causing teachers to feel like they need to be in Frankfort," he told reporters.
McKim said he hoped that JCPS teachers would "consider" utilizing the delegate plan, in which schools would send three teachers each to the Capitol, when lawmakers return for the final day of this year's session March 28.
Lewis asked 10 school districts Thursday to produce names of teachers who requested sick leave during a two-week stretch that closed JCPS six times; any documentation provided by teachers who sought sick leave on those dates; and districts’ sick leave policies.
Pollio, in a letter to Lewis Monday, provided JCPS’s sick leave policy but said the request for documentation is “moot” since the district closed those days.
Teachers and education groups have decried the request for names as a way to intimidate educators who rallied against bills moving through the General Assembly this year, but Lewis rejected such claims.
Lewis has said he hopes to use the data to develop policies that allow teachers to express their opinions without affecting instructional days.
Cindy Cushman, a parent of two children who attend Fairdale and Iroquois high schools, said she appreciated the resolution passed during Tuesday's special school board meeting but had hoped to see a reference to the General Assembly's quick passage of pension reform last year, which prompted districts across the state to close in "sick outs" throughout the state.
The bill, dubbed the "sewer bill" because pension reform language was inserted into legislation on wastewater and passed in a day, was later thrown out by the Kentucky Supreme Court on procedural grounds.
She said she understands why teachers don't trust lawmakers in Frankfort after last year's experience.
"I think the way the legislature acted last year with the 'sewer bill' is one of the biggest reasons that teachers don't trust the process and feel like they have to be in Frankfort," Cushman said.
- JCPS wants 5 more days to produce names of 'sick out' teachers to state
- Ky. education commissioner says request for 'sick out' teacher names is not a 'scare tactic'
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