Dublin, Upper Arlington Union Contracts Allow Extended Leave To Run For Office
Central Ohio public school teachers Maureen Reedy and Donna O’Connor have both been granted unpaid leave to run for seats in the state legislature. Reedy, a teacher at Wickliffe Progressive Elementary School, was paid $94,404 by the Upper Arlington City School District in 2011. O’Connor, who teaches at Dublin Coffman High School, was paid $81,014 by the Dublin City School District in 2011.
The Upper Arlington Education Association and Dublin Educators’ Association are both Ohio Education Association (OEA) affiliates. As a result, contracts between the Upper Arlington and Dublin school districts and the local unions provide perks unheard of in other industries, including leave policies allowing teachers to run for political office while the districts pay substitutes to teach in their place.
Reedy and O’Connor are two of the OEA-endorsed candidates highlighted in previous Media Trackers coverage. Both have received candidate training through a partnership between OEA – the state’s largest public employee union – and several national progressive groups.
At a May 16, 2012 Dublin Board of Education meeting, Donna O’Connor was granted three months of unpaid leave beginning August 21 and ending November 21.
The 104-page contract between the OEA local and the Dublin Board of Education details fifteen different types of leave. Employees who have worked for the district for three years or more may submit a written request to the superintendent for up to a year of “General” unpaid leave, “without pay and without credit for experience on the salary schedule (excepting those teachers who teach 120 days).”
The union contract dictates that each request “shall be evaluated upon its individual merit,” with consideration of the teacher’s reason for requesting leave, the likely disruption caused by granting the request, the availability of a replacement, the teacher’s history of other leave requests, the length of advance notice, and the duration of the requested leave.
The Dublin City Schools contract with the union even provides for “Career Change Leave,” which also may be requested for a duration of up to a year by teachers with three or more years of employment by the district. During a Career Change Leave, Dublin taxpayers’ contributions to the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) “shall be paid if the staff member’s request is in keeping with applicable Ohio law and STRS regulations.”
In the case of either general Unpaid Leave or Career Change Leave, Dublin teachers “may elect to continue all group insurance benefits, provided that the professional staff member does not become newly employed elsewhere at any time during the leave, and provided that s/he pays the full monthly premiums.”
The contract also specifies that teachers “returning from an unpaid leave of absence shall resume the contract status held prior to the leave and to the extent possible be assigned to the same or similar position held prior to such leave.”
Maureen Reedy was granted a leave of absence for the full 2012-2013 school year at a March 12 Upper Arlington City School District Board of Education meeting. Reedy requested leave under the “Unpaid Leave for Personal Reasons” provisions of the contract between the Upper Arlington Education Association and the Upper Arlington City School District.
A separate “Unpaid Professional Leave” section of the Upper Arlington teachers union contract explicitly states that employees may request leave “to take courses at a university or college, to enter government service, to serve in political office, to teach, or to engage in any activity that would benefit staff members in the performance of his/her duties.”
Many sections of the Upper Arlington Education Association contract – including a provision requiring taxpayers to continue funding retirement contributions “if the staff member’s request is in keeping with the applicable state statute and STRS regulations” – resemble or are identical to sections of the Dublin Educators’ Association contract.
The Unpaid Leave for Personal Reasons section of the Upper Arlington teachers union contract allows Reedy to remain covered by the district’s group insurance plans if she pays the full monthly premiums.
Other OEA-endorsed candidates currently running for Ohio House of Representatives seats are doing so without requesting extended leave.
Matt Lark, a teacher in the Norwalk City School District, continues to teach full time while running for the 57th District of the Ohio House.
“[Lark] has used some personal leave time (very limited) to meet the requirements of campaigning. He has missed a minimal amount of time from school,” Norwalk City Schools Superintendent Dennis Doughty told Media Trackers. Doughty added, “he is prepared to give up his teaching position in order to serve his term of office (if elected).”
John Patterson, formerly a teacher at Jefferson Area High School, retired from his public school position to run for the 99th District of the Ohio House. Patterson cited budget cuts as the reason for his resignation.
The campaign website for Jim Drake, a St. Clairsville teacher running for the 95th Ohio House District, is suspended as of publication. No leave request or approval is noted in St. Clairsville-Richland School District board minutes, and an inquiry to the district superintendent yielded no reply.