The reformed ethics policy, which was established in December 2009 and written by the school system’s ethics committee, left several teachers, administrators, school volunteers and even board members with concerns when they were asked to sign the document.
The ethics committee is composed of school board members Charlie Rose and Terry McGuire and retired Bradley County Juvenile Court Judge C. Van Deacon.
According to Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel, of the 1,175 school system employees, 65 percent have signed the ethics policy.
According to Bradley County Schools board member Charlie Rose, the intent of the “enhanced policy” was to provide a better work environment for teachers which would improve students’ learning environment.
“The two things that really stand out to me when we were forming this committee and the policy was it gave teachers an opportunity to go directly to the board if they felt like they had an ethics complaint against a board member. That was never in place before. To my knowledge, that was never there. If they had a board member treating them unfairly, they felt like they were harrassed, they had no options,” said Rose.
School board member Christy Critchfield said the new ethics policy is misleading to teachers because they feel they have recourse against school board members.
“I believe we have given a false sense to school system employees, that they are going to be able to disband any of these board members. They think if they give something to the ethics committee and it’s bad enough that board members will be let go,” said Critchfield.
According to Bradley County Schools Attorney Chuck Cagle, a school board member cannot be terminated from office short of committing a criminal offense.
Under the terms of the new ethics policy, if a signed complaint is filed against a school system employee the complaint is directed to the director of schools. If a signed complaint is filed against a board member, the complaint is reviewed by a screening committee and then, if determined to be a valid ethical complaint, will be given to the ethics committee for investigation which will then become a matter of public record.
Other questions, which were anonymously submitted, discussed at the work session were:
n Are board members expected to follow the policy?
n What are the requirements of physical stamina?
n Are school volunteers required to sign the new policy?
n Is the ethics committee trying to “run teachers off?”
The ethical standards under the new policy will be required of all employees including board members.
Critchfield indicated teachers who may have complications standing for long periods of time and teach from a sitting position have addressed concerns on whether they will lose their job. Cagle said the new policy standards on physical stamina apply more to employees who are under medications which would alter an employee’s state of mind when teaching, driving a school bus, maintenance repairs, etc., and not to those who cannot stand for long periods of time.
Cagle said the intent of the new policy is not to “drive teachers away” but to protect them.
McDaniel also clarified the misconception that current employees are required to sign the ethics policy.
“We simply asked for a signature, it’s not required of our current employees,” he said.
A signature will be required of new school employees upon initial hiring and school volunteers may be subject to sign the policy.
Cagle said the Bradley County School System is one of the few school systems in the state who is currently without litigation claims.