Tensions were high at the Scottsboro City Schools Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Jan. 7.
Superintendent Dr. Jay Reyes engaged in a heated exchange with the president of the Scottsboro Board of Education, Patricia Stewart, who objected to his request that he and Assistant Superintendent Amy Childress receive pay increases while they would be assisting at Scottsboro Junior High School.
Jason Arnold, the current vice Principal at Scottsboro Junior High School, was to be appointed the interim Principal of the school.
Reyes, who has served as the superintendent of the Scottsboro City School System since shortly after the school’s consolidation, remarked that this is not an unusual measure for district office personal. The contracts would have extended until the end of the school year in May.
This support would include budgeting, financing and academic support to Arnold as he takes on his first position as a school principal.
Reyes noted that at all other schools in the district there are two administrators.
Making staffing changes in school systems during the middle of an academic year according to Reyes has the potential to cause a cascading effect throughout the school system. If a teacher is hired into the roll then someone is needed to fill their spot causing a vacancy and a disruption of instruction for students. He also noted that this effect would be exacerbated due to concerns with COVID-19.
Stewart strongly objected to the measure proposed by Reyes.
"I don't think it's fair for people at the top to be paid extra for doing more work during the same hours," said Stewart while opposing the contracts of Reyes and Childress.
She stated during the meeting that in her position as an attorney it would be unheard of.
"I cannot sit in court and bill the state the hours that I am also working for the city, I cannot bill two people for the same hours," stated Stewart.
Reyes seemed to see this differently and noted that he would be taking on extra responsibilities that would likely extend past a regular workday. He also noted that he felt it would not be fair to ask someone to do extra work for no extra pay.
The two argued about the difference between Reyes and Childress’s contracts and Arnold's contract. Stewart appeared to draw the line at Arnold being asked to go from vice principal to principal taking on more responsibility as well as more duties throughout the workday.
"You're telling me that you're going to be working on Saturday and Sunday on your off hours?" questioned Stewart.
Reyes responded that he and Childress already work these extra hours in their current positions.
Reyes offered to retract his recommendation for the board to approve the contracts.
Dr. Gary Speers, noted that he thanked Reyes for the adjustment but added that he felt that "it may be fair, may be proper, may be decent, but it just doesn't seem equitable."
During the meeting, Reyes noted that earlier in his tenure as the Superintendent, he was asked to take on other responsibilities but was not offered pay.
"I feel that the efforts by myself and Mrs. Childress are coming into question," said Reyes adding that he "would employer [the Board of Education] to vote it down."
The superintendent laid out three options for the council. The first was to let Arnold have no support during the rest of the school year. The second, to hire a retired teacher or principal to provide clerical and administrative support and the third would be to offer him the full amount of support of Reyes and Childress.
"I want to give Mr. Arnold every chance — and a fair chance to succeed — to be able to succeed in what he does. I have no doubt that even without help that he would succeed and its always better to have a little help," said Lee Benson in offering support for the approval of the contracts. "He's always going to need someone to help cove.r"
Jason Williams made a motion to table the contracts of Childress and Reyes until the board's next meeting — the motion passed unanimously.
"As far as I'm concerned table all of it, I'm in favor of doing the work, I'm black and gold as you are," interjected Jason Arnold, who was present at the meeting. "It's all about the kids."
Williams later motioned to table the contract for Arnold as well, this measure also passed, and all contract adjustments were tabled until the Board's next meeting.
"I understand what he's saying, but it's not the right thing to do," said Benson, who voted against tabling Arnold's contract.
The board approved a measure to extend COVID-19 related sick leave for personnel of the school system until March 31, 2021. Previously this measure had been set to expire at the end of December.
The extension will only apply to those who have not previously used up the 10 days of sick leave that the Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act had allowed starting in April.
The Scottsboro City Schools Board of Education will meet for a work session on Jan. 21, and for a regular board meeting on Feb. 4.