WDAY: The News Leader

Published December 11, 2012, 10:39 PM

A policy change is stirring things up for teachers in Fargo

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- Fargo Public Schools employees say the district broke a promise.

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- Fargo Public Schools employees say the district broke a promise.

The board voted tonight to drastically cut the money teachers and employees get for their sick time when they retire. The longevity policy rewards employees for two things: sticking with the district, and for not using sick days.

When employees retire, they can get paid hundreds of dollars for each sick day accrued, a policy many teachers were not ready to lose.

Kathy Larson/Jefferson Elementary: "I've been promised, if I did not need to use them when I retired, I would be rewarded, in the means of a buyback of these days. I am afraid we will have a large number of valuable employees leaving early to retain this benefit."

Previously, employees could hold on to 180 sick days. At about 211 dollars a day, some staff members can cash in on a 38 thousand dollar reward at retirement.

240 employees are eligible for the program. Tonight, the school board voted to cut back the policy, saying the long-term cost was "unsustainable." Over the next 4 years, employees will now go from making 200 dollars a day, to 50 dollars a day.

Some staff, who retire early, can cash out the full amount, but the district is discussing that more in-depth later.

Rick Steen, Fargo School Board Member, says, "It would be one part of a bigger picture. we start looking at how do we right the ship in the fargo school district. Most people know the last 2-years we've had significant deficits."

Kim Belgarde, Fargo Edu. Assoc. President, says, "We felt the teachers that spoke tonight made a good plea, shared some good data, and it just didn't seem like what they had to say got thru to them."

Teacher Negotiations start in January. The Fargo Education Association says this policy change is causing people to lose faith in the board, and could complicate future contract negotiations.