EDUCATION MATTERS: How local superintendents spend their away days

By Marsha Sutton
Contributor
Conferences, vacation time, personal leave and sick days all contribute to a number of days away from the office for school district superintendents.

Sick days, obviously, cannot be planned ahead, but the others can.

Using vacation days (superintendent contracts typically allow 30 days per year) is encouraged by most school boards, and superintendents take vacation days as they can grab them. They are usually scheduled during “down time” when school is not in session or in the summer months when the work load is lighter.

“The board expects the superintendent to take vacation days each year in a timely manner,” reads the contract for Sharon McClain of the Del Mar Union School District. This language is common in other districts’ contracts as well.

A review of the calendars of local superintendents reveals differing patterns of time off, particularly for participation at seminars and conferences.

Because there are so many conferences, and because attendance fees and travel expenses can often be quite high, most education leaders are careful about selecting which, if any, to attend.

I reviewed the superintendents’ calendars for each of the four local school districts at their respective offices last November and December, going back to October of 2008 when possible. The variation in both the number of conferences attended, and which were chosen, provides insight into each leader’s priorities.

Is it better for personal growth and leadership development to attend more conferences and seminars? Or should superintendents stay home and pay closer attention to local needs? I can see reasons for both points of view and found the exercise quite revealing.

The findings for each of the local superintendents are provided here.

Lindy Delaney

Rancho Santa Fe School District (grades kindergarten through eighth)

Lindy Delaney attended no conferences in 2009. “I never go to conferences,” Delaney told me, when we met in her office Dec. 8. Instead, she prefers to meet with area superintendents once a month for a few hours, to go over common issues and interests.

These meetings are attended by superintendents from the San Dieguito Union High School District and its five feeder elementary districts (Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff and Encinitas). Delaney said she finds these meetings more valuable than out-of-town conferences with other school district leaders whose primary concerns can vary significantly from local challenges.

Delaney’s 2009 calendar for time away (no information was available for 2008):

January: in office
February: in office
March: in office
April: vacation – 5 days
May: vacation – 1 day
June: bereavement – 7 days
vacation – 2 days
July: vacation – 3 days
August: in office
September: in office
October: vacation – 4 days
November: vacation – 3 days

For this 11-month period of time, Delaney had 18 vacation days, seven days of bereavement leave, no conference days and no sick leave.

Leslie Fausset

Solana Beach School District (grades kindergarten through sixth)

With extensive experience as deputy superintendent at the California Department of Education, as well as serving in many other capacities in education including several leadership positions at the San Diego Unified School District, Leslie Fausset is recognized throughout the state for her knowledge of urban, suburban and statewide education issues.

Because of her depth of experience, Fausset has been named to several different committees in Sacramento, two of which she chairs. With the bulk of her out-of-office attention focused on these committee efforts, her time spent at conferences is limited. She attended only one conference since the fall of 2008, and that was in October of that year.

A group in Sacramento called the Inter-segmental Coordinating Committee (ICC) brings together representatives from K-12 education as well as post-secondary educators to discuss ways to improve student preparedness for higher education and success in the workplace. Fausset chairs one of four sub-committees: the Student Learning Committee.

A Waiver Committee, organized by the state Board of Education and composed of education leaders throughout the state, is chaired by Fausset and was formed in late 2008 to find ways to achieve greater flexibility with restricted, categorical funding.

Fausset is also involved in Schools for Sound Finance, also known as SF2, a consortium of California school districts formed about 30 years ago to help manage finances. SF2 assists Basic Aid districts – that is, those districts funded mostly by local property taxes rather than money from the state.

About 10 percent of the 1,000 school districts in California are Basic Aid; the rest are known as Revenue Limit districts. In San Diego County, all four local districts – as well as Cardiff, Encinitas and Carlsbad – are Basic Aid, primarily due to high property tax rates.

Fausset’s 2008 [partial] and 2009 calendar for time away:

2008:
October: Calif. Assn. of Suburban School Districts conference in Burlingame – 2 days
ICC meeting in Sacramento – 1 day
November: vacation – 4 days
December: personal necessity for family illness – 3 days
Waiver Committee meeting in Sacramento – 1 day

2009:
January: Waiver Committee meeting in Sacramento – 1 day
February: ICC meetings in Sacramento – 3 days
vacation – 3 days
March: sick leave – 10 days
April: SF2 meeting in Sacramento – 1 day
May: ICC meeting in Long Beach – 1 day
vacation – 4 days
June: vacation – 4 days
July: vacation – 9 days
SF2 meeting in Sacramento – 1 day
August: in office
September: vacation – 3 days
SF2 meeting in Sacramento – 1 day
October: vacation – 1 day
November: vacation – 2 days
ICC meeting in Sacramento – 1 day

For this 14-month period of time, Fausset had 30 vacation days, 13 days at out-of-town meetings or conferences, three days of personal necessity for family illness, and 10 sick days.

Sharon McClain

Del Mar Union School District (grades kindergarten through sixth)

Sharon McClain came to Del Mar in August of 2008 from Hermosa Beach, where she headed the K-8 school district. McClain strongly believes conferences and networking with other superintendents from around the state and nation help improve her skills and expand her abilities and are needed for continued professional development.

She holds a number of positions in several of the conferences she regularly attends, including: secretary of the California Association of Suburban School Districts in 2008, member of the Symposium planning committee for the January 2009 California Superintendents Symposium, chair of the New Superintendents conference and western states representative for the Urban Superintendents Association of America.

The Urban Superintendents Association of America, she explained, attracts leaders not just of urban districts but from a wide range of municipalities, many of whom head smaller suburban school districts with demographics similar to Del Mar’s.

McClain attended several conferences that were not entirely paid for by the school district. There was no fee for the Calif. Superintendents Symposium conference in Monterey last January since she was a member of the planning committee. The district paid only the $300 registration fee for the Urban Superintendents Assn. of America conference in Minneapolis; McClain paid her air fare and hotel costs. She paid her own air fare for the Apple visit to Cupertino. And she attended the Urban Superintendents Assn. of America conference in Albuquerque on vacation time and paid all her expenses.

McClain’s 2008 [partial] and 2009 calendar for time away:

2008:
October: Calif. Assn. of Suburban School Districts conference in Burlingame – 2 days
vacation – 3 days
November: vacation – 11 days
December: Calif. School Boards Assn. conference in San Diego – 2 days

2009:
January: Calif. Superintendents Symposium conference in Monterey* – 5 days
February: in office
March: in office
April: in office
May: in office
June: Professional Learning Communities training in Las Vegas – 3 days
July: vacation – 5 days
Urban Superintendents Assn. of America conference in Minneapolis* – 5 days
Apple visit to Cupertino* – 2 days
August: in office
September: in office
October: vacation – 2 days
Urban Superintendents Assn. of America conference in Albuquerque* – 3 (vacation) days
personal necessity for family matters – 2 days
November: sick leave – 10 days

[* reduced or no expenses charged to school district]

For this 14-month period of time, McClain had 24 vacation days, 22 days at out-of-town meetings or conferences, two days of personal necessity for family matters, and 10 sick days.

Ken Noah

San Dieguito Union High School District (grades 7-12)

Ken Noah began as head of San Dieguito on July 1, 2008, after six years running a K-12 district in Oregon. For the most part, he has little interest in large-scale conferences, except for two: the national Suburban School Superintendents conference and the California Superintendents Symposium. He said the Suburban School Superintendents conference is of value but otherwise prefers to stay in the district.

Noah’s 2008 [partial] and 2009 calendar for time away:

2008:
October: vacation – 6 days
November: Suburban School Superintendents conference in Denver – 3 days
December: vacation – 1 day

2009:
January: Calif. Superintendents Symposium conference in Monterey – 4 days
February: in office
March: in office
April: vacation – 4 days
May: vacation – 1 day
July: vacation – 8 days
August: in office
September: vacation – 1 day
October: in office
November: Suburban School Superintendents conference in Chicago – 4 days

For this 14-month period of time, Noah took 21 vacation days, 11 days at out-of-town meetings or conferences, and no personal necessity or sick days.

Marsha Sutton can be reached at: SuttComm@san.rr.com.

Related posts:

  1. EDUCATION MATTERS: Del Mar dominates local 2009 education stories
  2. EDUCATION MATTERS: Parent fees for public education come under scrutiny
  3. Local software engineer creates education app
  4. EDUCATION MATTERS: Saying thanks and giving back
  5. McClain named Superintendent of the Year

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Posted by Halie Johnson on Jan 13, 2010. Filed under Archives, Education Matters. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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