Thursday, October 25, 2007

School employee can't be his employer's boss

The following editorial appeared in the Concord Monitor. The editorial below makes two great points first it asks the question "Can a school district employee sit on a school board?" The question is yes and we agree with the conclusions of the monitor staff that legislators should clean up the language of the law that this should not be allowed to happen. Legislators should take it one step further and say that spouses of school employees should not be allowed to serve on school boards either. Clearly a person with a spouse working as a school employee has a conflict of interest and will more than likely put the spouses needs ahead of taxpayers and the children school employees are to serve.

School employee can't be his employer's boss

Can a school district employee sit on a school board? Strangely, state law is murky - and it's causing unnecessary headaches in this season's Concord School Board race.

Tim Patoine is among eight candidates for three seats on the board in next month's election. He is also a school bus driver.

There's nothing in the district charter that prevents him from doing both at once. But state statute prohibits people "employed on a salaried basis" by a school district to serve on that district's board of education.

Patoine argues that he is paid by the hour - and therefore is not a "salaried" employee.

But the law goes on to say: "Salaried positions shall include, but are not limited to, the following: teacher, custodian, administrator, secretary, school bus driver (if paid by the district), school lunch worker and teacher's aide."

Surely the Legislature's intent was to avoid the clear conflict of interest that exists when someone drawing a paycheck from the school district is also setting school district pay policies. Lawmakers did not want school employees reviewing the performance of their supervisors or determining what sort of annual pay raises they should receive.
They did not want the school bus driver to be the boss of the superintendent who is, of course, his boss.

Patoine is a sympathetic figure. He is a bright, energetic school board candidate whose knowledge of the district and its challenges is informed by the very job that should keep him from serving.

Regardless, despite their messy law-drafting, state lawmakers were right.

Two things should happen now.

Most important: The Legislature should quickly clean up the language of the law, making clear that it applies to all school district employees, whether "salaried" or hourly workers. A member of Concord's delegation should make this a priority.

Second: Patoine should either quit the school board race or assure Concord voters that if he stays in the race and wins he will promptly quit his bus-driving job. He should not be allowed to hold both positions - and voters should not be faced with financing a special election to fill his seat.

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