Official: Report on leave inaccurate

PLAQUEMINE — Iberville Parish School Superintendent Ed Cancienne on Monday challenged the facts stated in a recent Louisiana attorney general’s opinion alleging the school district had violated state law by letting 12-month employees work “skeleton shifts” during holiday breaks.

Cancienne and Brandie Blanchard, the district’s personnel coordinator, told members of the Iberville Parish School Board that evidence presented to the Attorney General’s Office was “incorrect.”

“We did a comparison of what was submitted to the Attorney General’s Office (and) the procedure written in the opinion is not the procedure we follow in the school system,” Blanchard told the board during its regular meeting Monday night.

The longtime school district practice of allowing 12-month employees to work minimally staffed shifts during holiday breaks was called into question by School Board member Darlene Ourso.

She had said previously she requested the attorney general’s opinion after being told by the administration that Central Office employees were compensated for additional paid time off during holiday breaks.

The Dec. 20 opinion deemed the practice illegal, stating that the school district’s employees could not be compensated “when they are absent without leave for non-work.”

In a report presented to the board Monday night, Cancienne said the school district works a “different type of skeleton crew” than what was described by the Attorney General’s Office.

Cancienne said all non-central and central office staff worked “modified” schedules during last year’s Thanksgiving holiday break, whereas the opinion stated they all worked their regular schedule.

While the attorney general’s opinion claimed Central Office employees were only required to work a morning or night shift of a modified two shift schedule for the holiday break, Cancienne said, all 12-month employees, in fact, worked on their assigned days.

Cancienne’s report further stated all 12-month employees are required to submit leave slips to their direct supervisors for approval for any work day within holiday breaks they do not report to work.

Blanchard reminded the board that, according to its policy, Cancienne has the authority to “define work schedules” for the district’s employees, and said the attorney general’s opinion did not override board policy.

Blanchard also presented the board with the district’s 12-month calender which outlines its approved holiday vacations but Ourso interrupted Blanchard, accusing the administration of altering the district calender after the release of the attorney general’s opinion.

Ourso’s comments sparked a heated debate among board members.

Assistant District Attorney Scott Stassi, who was present at the meeting for a different matter, stepped in and told the board it needed to further discuss the matter in executive session.

“It is out of order to allege an illegal allegation against an employee in a public forum,” Stassi told Ourso.

Before moving on to the next item, board member Tom Delahaye said, “It’s important the public knows the facts supplied to the attorney general were false.”