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School board compensation being revisited

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POSTED August 18, 2014 10:41 p.m.

Michael Seelye missed a Manteca Unified Board of Trustees meeting to attend the birthday celebration for his first grandchild who was turning one. His absence was excused by the board, which meant he was not going to lose his compensation. The reason for his absence was considered a “hardship.”

The vote was not unanimous. Trustee Nancy Teicheira voted no. She said she does see the reason for the absence, a birthday party for a grandchild, merited as a hardship.

The year before, the board voted on a similar issue but involving another trustee, Sam Fant, who represents Weston Ranch. His absence from a meeting was also approved by the board as a hardship and so was excused, and his compensation was not affected. Fant’s excuse was a game in which he had to step up at the last minute as the coach.

School board members, who are elected, “receive a sum not to exceed four hundred dollars ($400) in any month” as compensations for their services under Education Code Section 35120(4). Compensation amounts depend on the number of a district’s “average daily attendance” or ADA, for the prior school year. The $400 amount is for districts with “25,000, or less” ADA for the previous school year. Manteca Unified has a total enrollment of 23,000+ according to the latest statistics.

The district’s bylaw No. 9250 established under Code Section 35120 states:

“The Board of Education shall have the authority to determine acceptable reasons for a Board member missing a meeting without losing per diem compensation. A member may be paid for any meeting when absent if the Board by resolution duly adopted and included in its minutes finds that at the time of the meeting he or she is performing services outside the meeting for the school district or districts, he or she was ill or on jury duty, or the absence was due to a hardship deemed acceptable by the Board.”

The district policy further adds, “Unless approved by the Board at a prior regularly scheduled meeting, hardships will not include recreation, gainful employment, or additional income.”

In both the Fant and Seelye cases, Trustee Nancy Teicheira voted against the majority. In either case, she contended that the reasons presented by both affected trustees did not constitute a hardship.

Teicheira has requested that the board revisit the district’s policy on “Remuneration, Reimbursement, Other Benefits” for further discussion and possible action based on the above instances.

There’s another reason why Teicheira wants this action item on the agenda for tonight’s board meeting which will begin at 7 o’clock in the district board room at 2271 West Louise Avenue, corner Airport Way. Board vice president, Trustee Evelyn Moore, is planning to take a vacation in September and will be missing the board meeting during that time. Teicheira is anticipating another board discussion and vote over Moore’s anticipated absence and having it considered as excusable, and would like this opportunity to revisit the district policy on the matter of hardship and what it specifically entails.

If a school teacher in the district is not allowed to take a paid day off to attend a grandchild’s first birthday, “why should we be doing it?” Teicheira argued, citing the Seelye case.

“That’s so wrong,” she added, about the board’s previous votes accepting the Fant and Seelye absences as examples of hardships.

Teicheira herself has missed a couple of board meetings, with both absences approved as hardship cases. The first time was when her son, Daniel, died when he was a sophomore at Sierra High School. She was in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy the second time. She was again in the hospital last week, “but I will be at the meeting tomorrow night,” she said on Monday.

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