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Statement to Board of Education by Melanie Buchanon

Melanie Buchanon

At the Cheatham County Board of Education meeting held on Monday, August 6th, Cheatham County Educator Melanie Buchanon spoke to the Board on behalf of Cheatham County Teachers. The text of her comments follows:

Chairman Proffitt, Board Members:

I am Melanie Buchanan,I teach 3rd grade at Ashland City Elementary School and tonight I am speaking on behalf of Cheatham County teachers concerning the teacher’s sick leave bank (SLB). This is the same SLB that you will be voting to dissolve later this evening.  I want to take this opportunity to explain the SLB and how it not only benefits the teachers of Cheatham County but it also benefits Cheatham County Schools.

In 1981 the TN General Assembly recognized the need for school districts to provide teachers with income preservation during illness and placed into law the TN Teachers Sick Leave Bank Act T.C.A. 49-5-801. The rich history is that school boards, superintendents and teachers desired a mechanism for helping one another when colleagues had exhausted all of their sick leave days due to unfortunate and unexpected illnesses; illnesses that are often catastrophic resulting in teachers losing their income for months and jeopardizing their family’s financial security. Due to the TN Sick Leave Bank Act, School Boards and teachers all across TN demonstrate their devotion to each other and their care for one another by creating SL Banks so that teachers can “gift” each other with donated sick leave days during periods of illness.  It is illegal for a teacher to give another teacher sick leave days UNLESS a State approved SLB exists. Only the teacher member may use days from the SLB for personal illness. Members of the SLB can only be approved for an allotment of sick leave bank days once they have exhausted all of their own personal sick leave days. Our school district can be proud that a SLB exists for its teachers as it is a demonstration on the Board’s part that the Board cares about both the health and the financial well being of it teachers. The SLB is a show of benevolence on all our parts. This is a benevolent benefit that costs the county very little; yet one that helps CCS to recruit and retain high quality teachers. The cost to the school system is only the minimal cost of maintaining the SLB records.

A couple of you were on the Board that approved the creation of our sick leave bank. At that time, all believed that CCS and teachers benefit from the SLB. When the Board approved the SLB, I remember how we felt — we knew we had created something wonderful and good that we could all be proud of. It demonstrates our genuine caring for each other. When the decision was made to establish a SLB, the guidelines had to be consistent with T.C.A. and approved by the Commissioner of Education before it could begin operating. As required by law and the guidelines, a board of trustees administrates the SLB.  Some of you have served as the trustees along with members of CCEA.  By law, Trustees serve from Aug. 1-July 31st for either a two year or three year term. It is time again for new trustees to be appointed and the new teacher trustees were submitted to Ms. Proffitt on August 1st. Additionally, the SLB is highly regulated by law and the trustees are charged with the responsibility of adhering to TN code as well as the approve guidelines.

So how does a teacher become a member of the teacher SLB?

T.C.A. provides for teachers to become members of the SLB by making a one-time contribution of up to 3 days from their personal sick leave day accumulation. The Board and our organization agreed at the time that the donation to join the SLB would be 1.5 days and placed that within the guidelines approved by the Commissioner. In accordance with TN code, and as stated in the guidelines, that is the one time contribution of days required to become a SLB member. There is no annual contribution of sick leave days to the bank.  But not to worry… If at any time the balance of days falls below one day per member, the trustees vote to assess members with an additional contribution of up to three days. A teacher’s participation in the SLB is completely optional but it  is important that each fall, teachers be informed of the SLB’s existence and given the opportunity to joining thus insuring that the bank will grow.

The majority of TN school boards provide for its teachers the opportunity to participate in a SLB. Some negotiated it; some merely agreed with their teachers that a SLB is the right thing to do. I am proud to work for CCS for many reasons- and the SLB is one of them. In life we are given large, small and continual opportunities to help one another- the Cheatham County School Board took that large opportunity several years ago by authorizing the teachers’ sick leave bank. The SLB is a benefit that demonstrates to your teachers that the Cheatham County School Board genuinely cares about its employees. CC teachers request tonight that you continue that demonstration of caring. A SLB is about giving –giving to those in need. As an individual demonstrate your personal belief in the importance of individuals giving and helping others in need.  As we together continue the honorable work of serving the children of Cheatham County, your teachers ask each of you to vote to continue the teachers’ sick leave bank. Thank you for this opportunity.

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