There are more than 21,000 sick days which are owed to employees of Wayne Highlands School District.

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of stories about the current contract between the Wayne Highlands Education Association and the Wayne Highlands School District.—

There are more than 21,000 sick days which are owed to employees of Wayne Highlands School District.

There are also more than 4,000 owed personal days which are on the books of the school district.

That translates to just over $840,000 which taxpayers owe to district employees in those two categories.

These numbers were revealed following a right-to-know request from The Wayne Independent.

The reason for the request is because the current contract between the Wayne Highlands Education Association (WHEA) and the Wayne Highlands School District expires next June and contract negotiations will commence soon.

The school board, in fact, has already discussed the contract in several closed-door meetings over the past couple of months and the teacher's union, too, is in the process of surveying its members regarding the contract.

One of the provisions in the current contract which was approved in 2008 has to do with leaves of absence.

According to the contract, each member of the union "shall accrue 10 sick days" each school year. Those sick days "accumulate without limitation."

There is a "sick leave bank" available for members to contribute to and then they can be used by other members who have medical problems.

The contract also allows for three personal days per school year for each employee. Those days, too, "shall accumulate indefinitely."

There is also a provision for legal leave involving jury duty. The contract stipulates that teachers called for jury duty are granted a paid leave for the district for those days they are on duty. It also says that a teacher who is granted paid leave "shall not be required" to reimburse the district for monies received in connection with a jury duty assignment.

Other leave provisions in the contract include educational leave, sabbatical leave, child-rearing leave and family and medical leave.

There is a provision in the contract that limits the number of days teachers can take upon retirement. That limit is 180 days.

Todd Miller, president of the WHEA, said everything is on the table when it comes to the contract. He also said the members are being surveyed to find out what they feel is important in the contract.

"We want to find a contract that is affordable, something that is predictable," said Miller.

District officials provided a detailed list of compensated absences for all employees.

According to the information provided, there is a total of 13,391 sick days which are committed to teachers. Additionally, there are 1,372 personal days which are committed.

That amounts to $428,821 in total dollar commitments for those days.

Under the category of administrators/supervisors, the total number of sick days is 2,491 and there are 211 personal days. Additionally, there are 532 days for vacation time for administrators.

The total commitment for all of those days is $286,243.

The information also reveals that 12 administrators at Wayne Highlands make more than $100,000 per year.

The total salaries for administrators/supervisors is $1,663,893. That does not include any benefits, just salary.

Under administrative assistants, the total sick days owed is 1,995 and there are 182 personal days. The total amount committed is $82,844.

The records also indicate the highest paid administrative assistant makes $188 per day. The lowest is $72.80 per day.

Under the category of assistances, there is a total of 1,833 sick days owed and another 183 personal days. That amounts to $20,168.

Under the category of custodians, there are 1,626 sick days and 126 personal days. It also indicates just under $10,000 is owed for vacation time.

The information also shows that the highest paid custodian in the district makes $20.28 per hour and the lowest makes $9.65 per hour.

Miller did say the economy "has to be a factor" when negotiating the contract.

But he also pointed out the cost of education has been rising.

"It is expensive to educate kids," said Miller.

Miller also had praise for the board, saying they have been "very conservative" with money over the years. He added they have provided "quality education for students" while also considering the budget.

Miller also said he believes education has changed dramatically over the years, meaning roles have changed.

He calls public schools the "great equalizer" and said it allows students of all backgrounds and economic means to be on a level playing field.

He also said with the demands for special education and many other programs, schools have "had to do socialization. Our board has recognized as society has changed, they have to fill the gaps. It is too important. Some of that drives costs."

Coming in a future edition: The cost of athletics and extra curricular activities.