Iberville school system to do away with ‘skeleton shifts’

Iberville Parish school system Central Office employees can no longer work “skeleton shifts” during holiday breaks after a recent Louisiana Attorney General’s Office opinion said the longtime tradition violates state law, Superintendent Ed Cancienne said Monday.

Cancienne said some 12-month employees in the district’s Central Office received additional paid time off on designated work days during holiday breaks — like Thanksgiving and Christmas — through the use of minimally staffed shifts.

In 2011, School Board member Darlene Ourso scrutinized the practice. She said other 12-month maintenance department employees said it was unfair for them to work full days during holidays when central office employees did not.

However, since Cancienne became superintendent, “skeleton” crew shift options were extended to other 12-month employees as well, Chief Financial Officer Jolain Landry said Monday.

Ourso said she asked for the attorney general’s opinion after Landry told her that Central Office staff received additional paid time off during holiday breaks although it was not included in their contracts.

In its Dec. 20 opinion, the state’s Attorney General’s Office said the school district was violating Article VII, Sec. 14(a) of the Louisiana Constitution, which prohibits the donation of state funds to any person.

“To compensate central office employees of Iberville Parish School Board when they are absent without leave for non-work, amounts to a prohibited donation of public funds,” the opinion states.

“I have to do away with skeleton days,” Cancienne said regarding the opinion. “I told the staff this morning to look at the skeleton days remaining and those will become work days so that everyone is treated the same.”

Landry said the school district has not committed payroll fraud in scheduling the “skeleton” shifts. “Twelve-month employees are contracted to work 260 days,” she said.

Landry said the 260-day count consists of every business day (Monday through Friday) of a calendar year.

“In the 260 days there are paid holidays, and part of the paid holidays were skeleton crews, which allowed the office to be open but not everyone worked all of the days,” she said.

Landry said it is impossible for any 12-month employee to log in enough hours to meet the 260-day quota because of the paid holidays factored into the equation.

Ourso said if that’s the case, “we need to adjust some salaries if they aren’t working all of them (days).”

Ourso said she will ask the School Board to formulate a new calender for the district’s 12-month employees documenting the days they need to work to fulfill their contracts.

The district’s current calender only outlines vacation days for its 10-month employees and students, school system officials said.

Brandie Blanchard, the district’s personnel coordinator, said Monday the administration is already poised to ask the School Board to amend its current policy and “re-work” its current calender.

“We will now come up with two separate calenders just to make sure it’s clear to everyone,” she said.