Editor:

One specific ailment with a doctor’s note gets a teacher off the hook, but a whole multitude of illnesses that “flesh is heir to” does not! 

The Public Education Department (PED) teacher evaluation system is fundamentally flawed.

On Feb. 3, the PED informed school districts and charters that teachers with influenza could use sick leave and not have it counted in the annual attendance reporting that lowers the teacher’s evaluation effectiveness rating. This allowance applies only when the teacher absence was evidenced by a doctor’s note.

Medical best practices discourage medical visits for the flu, except in severe cases, but the PED sends teachers to doctors regardless. Dr. James M. Steckelberg of the Mayo Clinic says that for most people, the flu is a mild illness, and a visit to the doctor is not needed. The new PED directive requires teachers to make an unnecessary and costly trip to the doctor; otherwise it will impact your performance evaluation. 

Have a mild case of shingles (recovery time, three to five weeks)? You will use more than your six days of allowable sick leave, and be considered a less-effective teacher than the one with the flu and a doctor’s note, or one who was lucky enough not to get sick.

Need to have your gall bladder removed? Then you are labeled as a less-effective teacher than those who stay well or just get the flu. 

Laparoscopic surgery? You will likely return to work one to three weeks after surgery.

If you had an open surgery, it may take two to four weeks. Both will exceed the six days highly effective teachers are allowed under the PED evaluation system.

Catch a severe cold and you may need to stay home a week to 10 days to recover and not be contagious. Get a noroviruses or strep throat, and you are going to need to stay home three days to a week to protect your students and co-workers from getting sick. Your concern for colleagues’

and students’ wellbeing will be appreciated, but you will pay the price for your concern.

NEA-New Mexico is adamantly against counting sick leave use against a teacher’s evaluation score. So, too, do our local associations in Sandoval County: Rio Rancho School Employees Union, Jemez Valley Education Association and NEA-Bernalillo. 

The PED memo points out how ludicrous, unfair and hypocritical this practice really is.  

We call upon the PED to immediately end the biased and dangerous practice of denying teachers their contractual right to use earned sick leave without penalty.

Betty Patterson

NEA-New Mexico president

(Guest columns and letters are published as submitted, without fact-checking or corrections. They represent the belief/opinion of the author. Publishing these viewpoints does not represent an endorsement by the Observer or any member of our staff. Our prevailing aim is to facilitate a spirited but rational and respectful community dialogue on the array of issues and challenges we face collectively. Toward that end, we welcome submissions from all perspectives.)

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