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Superintendent Gives Up Sick-Day Perks

by | Apr 15, 2014 8:08 am

(6) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Schools

Melissa Bailey Photo Superintendent Garth Harries will no longer be able to rack up and cash in 215 sick days, according to a new contract approved by the school board.

The school board Monday unanimously approved a new contract that will allow Harries (pictured with Mayor Toni Harp)  to continue in his job for another three years, from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017.

Click here to read the contract. Click here for a recent story outlining the terms of the deal.

The contract included one last-minute change from the proposed deal the Independent reported Monday. The change concerned Harries’ sick pay.

In his current contract, Harries can accumulate 19 unused sick days per year, up to a maximum of 215 days. He or his beneficiaries can cash in—take money for—those sick days if he dies, retires or is fired. The generous arrangement raised eyebrows among Independent commenters.

At Monday’s board meeting, board President Carlos Torre announced that Harries had made an unusual last-minute request to reduce his benefits in that area.

“The superintendent is giving back something that he had the right to under this contract—the ability to buy back sick leave,” Torre announced.

Harries requested, and the board approved, a new arrangement: Harries will get a one-time chance to convert 45 sick days that he has already accumulated into 15 vacation days, 10 of which he can cash in at the end of the year. After that, Harries will not be able to cash in or convert any unused sick days.

Harries said he asked for the last-minute change because he reviewed the details of his contract and realized he “should bring it more in line with” other workers’ benefits. (Correction: Unionized school administrators can store up 19 sick days per year, up to a limit of 215 (or 170 if they were hired after 1994). They can cash in those sick days in a 3-1 ratio if they die or retire, so that 215 sick days would translate to 73 paid days.)

Teachers get 15 days of paid sick leave per year, which can accumulate up to a total of 215 days. If they die or retire, they can cash in up to 64 unused sick days.

Harries said he has already accumulated 95 unused sick days since he joined the district in 2009. After the one-time conversion, he’ll have 50 left. He said he has barely taken any sick days; he aims to store up the days in case he needs them further down the road.

“I plan to have a long career here,” Harries said.

Harries said he has long believed that sick time should be used just for illness. He noted that in recent remarks, he has called on teachers not to use up sick days for personal reasons. (In a recent letter to Lincoln-Bassett, which has been struggling with high absenteeism among teachers, he called on staff to “follow attendance protocols rigorously.”)

“I needed to put my money where my mouth is,” Harries said, by reserving his sick days for their intended use, not for extra money.

The new contract does allow Harries to cash in unused vacation days. Harries gets 30 vacation days per year, which can accumulate up to 66 days. Harries can cash in up to 10 days of unused vacation at the end of each fiscal year. If Harries dies, retires or is fired, he or his beneficiaries can cash in up to 66 unused vacation days.

Salary Comparison

The contract keeps Harries’ salary at $193,000, with 2-percent increases on July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016. It includes a special clause asking that upon renewal of the contract, the board “conduct a salary review of superintendent’s salaries in comparable school districts and make a reasonable efforts to align the superintendent’s salary to those comparables.”

Harries’ salary is lower than that of some other towns and cities: Hartford’s outgoing superintendent, Christina Kishimoto, makes $238,000, and her unnamed replacement is being offered a salary in the range of $250,000. Waterbury’s superintendent made $205,000 as of 2012-13, according to the Teachers Retirement Board. Bridgeport’s interim superintendent, meanwhile, makes $190,000.

“The board is getting a good contract here, when you think about the level of compensation that other districts get,” said New Haven board member Alex Johnston. “An anecdotal survey suggests we are under the level of other districts,” he said, districts with fewer challenges than New Haven has.

“I think it’s a good contract for me and for the board and the city,” said Harries after the vote. “I’m happy to have it out of the way” and be able to focus on running the schools.

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posted by: Scot on April 15, 2014  11:36am

I really appreciate that Harries recognized how ridiculous that sick day clause was.  Going forward I wish the city, when negotiating contracts would do away with the bs around sick time and vacation time.  I think it makes more sense just to pay people a higher salary, but then don’t allow them to get paid for unused sick days. 

For vacation days I think it’s ok either way to let them cash them in or not, however if people are allowed to cash them in they shouldn’t get a ridiculous number of vacation days like 40,50,60 +.  Giving someone 50 vacation days per year with the option to cash them in is clearly just a backdoor way to give them a higher salary. Why not just be transparent about it? 

If every employee has the option to use or get paid for 30-66 vacation days per year, how can the city predict what they will be paying in salaries each year?  One employee might use their 40 vacation days; another employee might use 5 days and ask to get paid for 35. It seems that would make budgeting very difficult and unpredictable.

posted by: IloveMYcity203 on April 15, 2014  3:40pm

That was a good move on Garth’s part. Much respect!


you wrote:

” Giving someone 50 vacation days per year with the option to cash them in is clearly just a backdoor way to give them a higher salary. Why not just be transparent about it?

If every employee has the option to use or get paid for 30-66 vacation days per year, how can the city predict what they will be paying in salaries each year?  One employee might use their 40 vacation days; another employee might use 5 days and ask to get paid for 35. It seems that would make budgeting very difficult and unpredictable.”

How is this a backdoor to giving someone a higher salary? If I am hired at 50k a year, the vacation time is included in that. I my employer gives me 4 weeks vacation at 50k a year, I’ll get paid for not being at work if I use my 4 weeks. That doesn’t change the fact that my salary is 50k. If someone worked 365 days straight (hypothetically speaking), they still made 50k;however, if they are getting paid on top of that 50k, then I see what you are talking about.

I personally think if a person works through their vacation, they should be compensated for that. It’s extra labor. I do see where this can pose some sort of loop hole, but most employers force you to use vacation time or lose a certain amount of it going into the new fiscal year. [excuse any typos]

posted by: Scot on April 15, 2014  5:05pm

@lovemycity, I agree w your example if you get 4 weeks vaca and work through some of it, you can cash it in, no problem.  My comment was for two cases:  1) pay for sick days. especially when employee is allowed 19 sick days/year.  If you can cash those out every year, it would substantially increase your salary. Garth apparently felt the same and gave them back (I agree, much respect!). I would hope the city wouldn’t offer that in the first place going forward!  2) offering way-more-than-normal number of vacation days such as 66 then being allowed to cash them in.  I don’t have a problem with 30 vacation days but if it goes to 40, 50, 60+ Come on, what superintendent is going to take 50 vacation days? The only reason I can see for giving someone 50 vacation days is so they can cash some in and increase their pay. 

I’m fine with the city paying him a lot of money, tough job and I hope he’s successful! It just seems to make more sense to pay a slightly higher salary so you know exactly what the pay will be rather than give a ridiculous amount of sick and vacation days that will obviously be cashed in later. my two cents.

posted by: RichTherrn on April 15, 2014  6:02pm

Congratulations to Garth, well deserved.

a quick clarification. NHPS School Administrators do not have the ability to carry over or cash in on unused vacation days at all.
In regards to sick days, there is a limit to amount that can be accumulated, and upon retirement/death (NOT upon leaving the district to work elsewhere), 34% of accumulated unused sick days can be “cashed in” (not used as or converted to vacation days).
For a 12 month administrator hired on/after 1994, that would be a max of 57 unused sick days that would be “cashed in”, essentially 3 days per year worked.

posted by: Threefifths on April 15, 2014  7:48pm

Like I said.

You need to read this.

Garth Harries Leaves New York City, and This is a Good Thing

Plus Garth Harries is Unqualified for the job.

How come these two Men were turn down for the job when both are them are more qualified for the superintendent job then Garth Harries?

Dred Scott

Kriner Cash

Now take a look at Garth Harries Resume.

posted by: UBHolden on April 15, 2014  9:14pm

No doubt the comments in the NHI helped Garth set a good example by recognizing how outrageous this benefit is.  Now if he could only do the same thing with his top administrators.  fat chance!

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